Hi everyone, how are you all doing? Hope you are hanging in there in these very difficult and challenging times.
This week, as part of the 1.5m people in the ‘at risk’ group in the UK, I’m trying to get used to the fact that the country walks that I’ve come to love are temporarily out of the window for me, and instead of going on a downward spiral of what I can’t do because of this damned virus, as usual I try to go the opposite way, this time focusing on what I love about my home and why actually being isolated here is no great shakes in the grand scheme of things.
The hubs has recently built a pergola too and with the nicer weather, at least I can get out into the garden…
So, above is the post I wrote for the Yorkshire Writers Lunch Blog yesterday – just one of the many creative groups I can’t go to at the moment and if you’re a lover of stories, you will find plenty of local talent here to keep you entertained over the coming weeks.
And perhaps it will also inspire you to have a go at writing a few of your own too, I can’t think of many better ways to pass the time.
Next week I’m writing all about podcasts, a passion of mine that has truly become part of my life, like books only listening instead! There are so many interesting human stories and experiences out there to hear and I’ll be sharing some of my favourite podcasts as well as finding out how people go about starting one of their own.
Until then, please take care, stay in your beloved homes, and keep talking.
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
Getting out into the fresh air when I can
Hello!! Well what a week it’s been since I last wrote! Whilst the whole world as we know it has changed, I’m wildly aware of the anxiety it is causing to many people and whilst I’m not usually the type to worry about stuff like this, because I’m classed as ‘in the vulnerable group’ with the double whammy of having had a blood cancer and still on chemo treatment, I can tell you it’s causing my mind to gallop!
Which is why I’m trying even more so to stay away from the noise, the news and those loopy loo-roll stock-pilers who make me so angry I could really let rip if I was actually allowed to go into a supermarket!
It’s nice to get some sunshine beaming into the office!
So, instead I’m forging on with creative projects and other things to keep me majorly distracted and I thought this is what I need to write about this week, to encourage people to take all this extra time we might have on our hands to do something positive out of a bad situation. Plus, as we head into potential further lock down and schools close, parents are going to need some extra ideas to entertain the kids!
For people who have small businesses and are finding themselves with less work or working from home, although it is a difficult time, I think we have to dig deep and be resourceful and use this potential gift of ‘time’ to our advantage. For example, how often do you get chance to remove yourself from the busyness of your business and focus on the bigger picture?
You might do this when you are planning at the beginning of the year or analysing at the end but now might be a good time to check in, assess how it’s going and set out some contingency plans for the coming months.
If you’re a creative business or you deliver workshops etc, now could be the time to plan new product ideas, build up your stock, keep present with your marketing and on social media, evaluate the success of previous workshops etc. There’s lots that can be done to work on your business and it’s important to not let fear of the future paralyse you and focus on what can be done.
For others that are stuck at home, try to not see this as an end to your freedom and go into panic-mode like my mum is currently doing! She’s a stubborn 74 yr old rebel who is thinking about getting some false ID off the internet or suing Boris (despite voting for him and singing his praises!) for age discrimination and yet she’s been the first to lecture me throughout my chemo journey ‘to be sooooo careful’! She really makes me laugh, but it just goes to show how much we take our freedom for granted!
Trust me I’ve felt this fear of being trapped massively myself, having had to semi-isolate since November, away from crowded and public places such as cinema (which I love), supermarkets, sports centres, concerts and theatre (really love) shopping centres, public transport, my beloved creative groups and any crowded indoor events.
It is bloody hard don’t get me wrong but I’m finally getting used to it and you just have to use that good old British community spirit and listen to the advice and think of all the people who have to do this on a more regular basis, like cancer patients and those with chronic health conditions. If we can do it for several months, a few weeks shouldn’t be an issue to keep everybody safe!
One thing is for sure it certainly makes you appreciate your health and how lucky we are to live in a country with food, services, work and a home, there are people in this world far worse off than us.
So, on to what you CAN do to keep yourselves busy! I’ll put some links to previous blog posts at the bottom of this piece which also cover creative tips, techniques and ideas.
Here is my definitive, go-to list in order to keep myself entertained and calmer, hopefully it will provide you with an enjoyable few hours too!
It goes without saying that writing any worries down helps and that is why journalling in recent years has become so popular because it is proven to help mental health. It doesn’t have to be a big chunk of writing unless that is of course what you would prefer to do but if you’re just starting out, I recommend these approaches:
1)Writing down 3 good things that have happened that day – by writing them down you are re-enforcing the emotion connected to the memory, so you get a double hit of joy. This is something I do regularly and have recently started a hashtag on Instagram to celebrate this; it’s called #seekingsparklesofjoy if anyone would like to join in and keep that good feeling going even further.
If you’re anything like me, choosing an appealing notebook and nice pen helps, somehow it feels more of a treat!
2) Another thing I often do with my son is this, as recommended by Dr Chatterge of ‘Feel Better, Live More’ podcast. Ask yourself these questions;
What was the best thing that happened today?
What have you done for someone else today?
What has someone else done for you today?
What was something that didn’t go quite so well?
What have you learned from today?
My son is 12 and he really enjoys doing this, it’s a way of getting to know about his day and anything that might be bothering him but almost in a little game format that we each do and so it feels less pressured and just a fun thing to do.
This isn’t something we write down, it’s usually a conversation at bedtime, but it’s still allowing us to download our day in a simple way that feels good, and makes you think about how you interact with others.
3) Another thing to try is doing what Julia Cameron from her book ‘The Artist’s Way’ calls the Morning Pages. This is something I’ve wanted to try for a while, and even more so now as I think it would get any anxious thoughts out of my head early in the day so you can then get on with the rest of your day.
This is how Julia describes them, ‘Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages, they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about
anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes
only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.
Karen from our WOW group has been giving this a go, she says; ‘When I’m in the flow with it I find it really therapeutic and it sets me up for the day. As someone who feels very anxious first thing I think it helps to ground me and stop me from rushing headlong into the day. It makes me pause and question priorities and I do feel calmer for it.’
It’s been an interesting time for authors, I’ve been watching on social media authors who are writing books set in 2020, who are now considering whether to change the time period or add the situation into their stories.
Which made me think that obviously as a subject, it’s an interesting one to consider and gives a whole new ream of possibilities and characters to write about in these unprecedented times, for example characters could include:
The possibilities really are endless because everyone is effected by this.
You could also just write about it from your own perspective as a historical piece of writing that may come in useful later on or to tell generations about in years to come.
However, if all that is too much and you’d rather not go down that road, use the time to either finally start a draft of the book you’ve always wanted to write OR if you have a personal story to tell, why not start on the outline of that?
If you are a complete beginner and just want to have a go at some fun smaller challenges and short stories, check out Writer’s News coffee break exercises they’re a great place to start to kick-start your writing.
Finally, if you really do have plenty time on your hands, such as those who have retired, why not have a go at a writing course? There are often free creative writing courses via Future Learn, part of the Open University which is a great place to begin and see if writing is your thing!
This is a brilliant way to be present and focus on the here and now rather than the uncertainty of what may come in the following weeks and also encourages you to get outside on some healthy fresh-air walks, providing it is safe to do so of course – preferably in nature only and people-free!
You could set yourself a themed project, or you could join in with the many Instagram hashtag projects out there (including mine #seekingsparklesofjoy), or set your own and even better, get the whole family to join in. You could even use it almost as a documentary – ‘what we did when corona virus hit!’
Interestingly, nature and the planet doesn’t halt when something like this strikes. The season’s still change, as does the weather, so there is always plenty to see and discover. For me Spring is the absolute best time to observe the re-birth of the countryside; buds bursting into life, the dawn chorus ever louder and skies changing from Winter grey to hopeful blue. All this can influence many creative projects, as it does with my writing, art and photography projects and observing it brings a sense of calm and knowing of our place in the world.
Now you know this is a big passion of mine and for me there’s nothing more relaxing to focus on and get you in to that bliss state of ‘flow’– i.e. where all mind chatter disappears and you can get lost in the task in hand for hours.
Art days can be so much fun for all the family, just spread all your materials out on the kitchen table and get stuck in! Easter will soon be around the corner, why not make some Easter cards to spread a little happiness to your friends, family and neighbours?
At the end of this piece there are posts about certain techniques you can try, from Brusho painting to needle-felting but whatever you choose to do, the fun is just in the playing so don’t take it too seriously.
As well as the doing, having time on your hands is a great opportunity to learn too. To discover new art techniques for example, there are hundreds of free demonstrations available on YouTube that you can just follow along with step by step.
Reading is also the ultimate treat when you have the time to settle down with a cuppa! Check out my resource section, The Curious Cave, for plenty of creative books that will fire your imagination.
And then of course there are also podcasts, which have been a revelation for me, especially if you have lots of house jobs to be getting on with, I often set these playing in the background and it makes it a lot more fun!
There have been some great new ones I’ve discovered recently, that I’ve added to The Curious Cave and I’ve recently been lucky enough to be interviewed by my friend Lesley who is launching her new ‘The Midlife Manifesto’ in a few weeks on April the 3rd!
This week I’m also being interviewed for the fairly new, ‘2 Northern Lasses’ podcast, hosted by WOW Wednesday members Michelle Cowan and Jayne Adamson. It’s a down to earth, funny podcast all about the interesting career paths people take with plenty of other stories thrown in! I can’t wait to join in on the conversation and I’ll let you know when my episode launches!
I hope this has given you food for thought and you now have plenty of creative ideas to consider trying throughout these crazy weeks to come. Please do let me know if you have a go!
Until next time, stay safe, wash your hands, look after your loved ones and your communities, do not go mad on loo rolls and Keep Calm and Create!
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
Ps – Update from today’s news is that I’m on further lock down for 12 weeks now! I suppose I really should finish the book huh?!
PPs – here are some further posts below that will be useful for you to carry on creating!
Hello! I’m coming in with an extra post following my Uncles Jack’s funeral last week, because I wrote a poem for it and so many people have wanted to read it I thought I’d pop it on here, see further below.
I also had a really interesting week as I finally got to record a podcast interview with my lovely friend Lesley Ellis who will soon be launching ‘The Midlife Manifesto’ podcast on the 3rd of April! Lesley is so open and engaging, I know her podcast is going to be great and I can’t wait to hear the stories of the other guests she’s interviewed!
We had a fascinating chat, all about not letting any traumatic events in you past define you. This is something I’m really passionate about, having had an interesting childhood to say the least, further challenges in my early twenties and thirties and of course the latest spanner in the works – getting through Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and chemo! – no spoiler alerts though, you’ll have to wait for the podcast!
It did also get me thinking though about why some people react differently to these things. I avoided talking about my past script because I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or to feel like a victim of my circumstances.
My view was simply; I’m not going to let this ruin my life, I was ambitious and just wanted to get over it all and on with life!
I also think that, the family around you have a big impact on you growing up in terms of resilience. For example, my Mum is a very strong woman, having had some very tough times in her life and is part of the ‘keep calm and carry on’ generation. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly, doesn’t create a fuss, has a good sense of humour and keeps herself busy – all characteristics I think I have inherited.
When she was a single parent to me from the age of 12, she worked hard, taking on 2 jobs and the focus was on keeping her head above water financially and looking after us both.
She installed her work ethic into me and from age 13 I had a washing up job in a pub, and then a babysitting job at 14, looking after 3 children on our street including an 8-month-old! – I can’t believe they let me! I then moved on to working in a fish and chip shop but that didn’t last long as I kept burning myself! Next came waitressing jobs and bar work – I’ve worked in many pubs in Huddersfield, before setting off for Uni in Plymouth of all places and I still got myself a bar job down there too to top up the measly grant I got!
Got to love a mortar board and gown! Receiving my BA Hons degree in Public Relations and Language studies.
My Mum continues to be a big influence in my life, and she’s had a particularly testing year with both myself and her brother, having forms of cancer. Both my Uncle and my Aunty (her sister who passed away 10 years ago very suddenly) were also very strong, larger than life characters, full of fun and mischief.
It was unfortunately a very sad ending for my uncle who deteriorated quickly after a fall but up until that point he was fully with it, asking about the children, how I was doing, still cracking jokes and listening to his beloved football team, Huddersfield Town’s matches on the radio, all despite being in horrendous pain for a long time. He is my role model to get to the end of this treatment, be as brave as he was, do him proud and once again crack on with life.
Similarly, when my Aunty died without any previous ill health and also a close friend 4 years back who I worked with as a governor at our local school, it only served to remind me that life is too damn short to take it for granted.
I had this belief anyway, but even more so now and this is why I’m constantly encouraging people to drop the fear and just go for it on creative things they want to try because what is the worst that can happen? It really does not matter if your first go/s turn out to be a disaster, you’ll learn from any mistakes and improve, just like we did as children at school!
Life is too short to waste time thinking. ‘oh, I’d be no good at that’ or ‘I’d like to have a go but my I’m too scared to walk into that group that looks really interesting!’. Joining such groups can literally change your life, I know they have mine! I really cannot imagine not taking part in these creative groups anymore, which is why it has been so hard over the last 6 months not being allowed to go (because of potential infection) but as soon as I can get back to them I will!
And to the people who don’t think they are creative – I hear this phrase soooo many times it drives me crackers! Every human is creative, I firmly believe that, it’s just about finding what really interests you. Creativity isn’t just about art or writing or knitting, it can be so much more than that including problem solving, different ways of working, meal-planning, designing your website or logo, finding genius ways to motivate a team, writing engaging posts on social media, as well as of course the hundreds of other creative hobbies out there.
Creative skills are now in demand, known as the softer skills, work-places are seeking more individuals who are in touch with their creative side to balance out teams, businesses are starting to realise its importance.
Plus, by now if you’re a regular reader, you know that taking up a creative interest is fundamentally good for your well-being and if you don’t believe me, check out an older post here that I wrote on this.
Yes you need to have a positive mindset and a bit of courage to just start, so if this is something you struggle with, talk to friends who you know will offer encouragement and support you, or better still, ask around and see what creative hobbies they do and maybe join them for a bit of Dutch courage?
The best piece of advice I was given when starting out. Instead of trying to create a master-piece. this gave me permission to just play!
Strong self-belief will come later but at the beginning you just need to find something that you really enjoy, something that will keep you returning to it until it becomes a habit (a good one!) that you can’t do without. If the fear is holding you back, have a read of this older post too to help you.
Creativity can boost confidence and build resilience in all areas of life which can have the knock-on effect of transforming your mindset. If you create something that you are proud of, when you initially feared the result, then just maybe you can take on other challenging areas of your life too?
So, on that note, below is my poem for my uncle that took me a while to do to get it right; convey the great man that he was, add in some in-jokes that the family would get and also hit the right note of hope as there were children at the funeral.
I didn’t want it to be gloomy and too sad as that was simply not him. My mum did my uncle and the poem proud, overcoming her emotions and reading it out with pride to over a hundred people who came to pay their respects, proving what a well-loved and highly thought of man he was.
Until next time…
Juliet, The Funny Onion (as my uncle used to call me) x
What we hope for you now…
It’s a complicated journey death
As you take your last breath
And fly high to the stars
We crumble and cry and try to deny
That you are truly leaving us…
You, are welcomed with warm embrace
By treasured relations gone before
Together, protected, a unit once more
There, gardens are filled with spring flowers
And the sun, shines, super-powered
By the love from below
There is no darkness here
No endless pain or fear
Just a world where dreams come true
Town score plenty of goals, just for you…
Neat, clipped greens, wait for you to bowl
No tin knees now, you’re on a roll
Children chase and gather at your feet
A real-life hero, they’ve come to meet
Of course, he misses the ones he’s left behind
But then he searches and finds
He can still keep an eye, through his view from the sky
And he’s listening too,
So still have a chat…he’d really like that
And for us that are left, feeling bereft
With a hole in our soul and missing his smile
Fond memories will stay with us forever
Of how brave and funny and kind he was then
The king of our family,
A legend amongst men…
Now that the longest, dark, ‘Let’s all hibernate and drink hot chocolate’ January is out of the way, I hope some of you are starting to re-emerge like me, bleary eyed and thinking about the next 11 months ahead, but gently does it yes? Here’s a great way to start…
There is some beauty in winter….when we peek outside!
I’m a big fan of choosing a ‘Guiding Word’ for the year, to help you do just that, guide you through the coming months of 2020, in all kinds of ways.
In recent years as people seek more ways to be pro-active in how they choose to live their lives; the practice of selecting a guiding word or also called ‘word of the year’ has increased hugely and is much more effective than creating a long list of new year’s resolutions that last all of 2 weeks!
“For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. Their articulation represents a complete, lived experience.”
As a writer, I’ve always believed there is a great power in words and never more so when choosing just one! I’ve enjoyed choosing mine for the passed 4 years now, and speaking from personal experience, it really has helped shape my daily, weekly and monthly intentions.
So, what are the benefits of this seemingly simple practice, can choosing a word really make such a difference? Absolutely YES and here’s why:-
So now I’ve convinced you of the feel-good factors, how on Earth you go about choosing a word without searching through the entire Oxford Dictionary?
Firstly, you need to examine what you want the word to do. ‘Words of the Year’ are usually chosen to motivate you and use as a way of helping to change something for the better or to strive towards.
So, for example, if you spend all day rushing around looking after everyone else, then the word ‘self-care’ may be an option but if you’ve already built that into your life, then it’s not really going to challenge or inspire you, more just a reminder to continue to do the same.
In my experience, I go about choosing a word in the following way:
Then go on to asking yourself the following questions for each one…
The mind-map for my words this year – get the coloured pens out!
This should have helped to single out the most appropriate word on your list, but if not, just sit with your reduced selections for a few days and one will soon rise to the top!
So with all this in mind, and because I‘m used to this practice now, my word (s) came to me in the middle of the night and instantly felt right for what I’ve been through this last year and will continue to go through until my chemo treatment ends.
I’ve also been a rule breaker as I have one main word and then 2 supportive words! But there are reasons which I will explain below!
My main word is RISE;
supported by Re-Energise and Surprise….
bear with me!
Firstly, anything that comes to me in the dark hours is usually right and I instantly get a gut feel about it, most of my best ideas come to me at this time…and then I have to make sure I remember them in the morning!
Secondly, my word last year ended up being in hindsight, bizarrely accurate. It was VALUE and was all around health, finances, my time and people BUT it wasn’t exactly an enticing word and made me think of a budget supermarket range!
I love words in 3’s that are either alliteration (like The Curious Creative Club!) or rhyming and so this roles off the tongue nicely BUT of course it has to have deep meaning too!
Rise, as you can imagine is all about coming out the other side of this cancer/ chemo journey that has literally flattened me at times both physically (see footnote) and mentally and also a number of other situations in our family, there is an awful lot going on at present off the back off a pretty deflating 2019.
Like I say though, I like to stretch my words across other areas, so Rise also applies to raising my game across all my creative projects as I’m always striving to do better and to also rise above negative situations and distance myself a little.
As an Empath and Highly Sensitive Person (click for questions if you’re interested), I’ve noticed this last year as bad news has surrounded me left, right and centre, I’ve felt drained taking it all in and trying to help people and fix problems – I have to realise that things can’t always be solved, people have to want to help themselves, and so in some cases I’m trying to just take a little step back before it all becomes too much, particularly on top of treatment.
I’m a positive person myself, but sometimes you have to surround yourself with as much positivity as possible too (and not feel guilty for doing so) and thankfully I have many friends and family who are there for a much-needed humour boost!
That doesn’t stop me though from fighting for things I believe in or standing up for others who are less able to do so.
As my confidence has grown this year, mainly through writing this Blog and setting up our local accountability group – WOW Wednesdays, I finally have the self-belief that what I have to say can be important, inspiring and useful – I want to continue to believe in my voice and try and get rid of that comparisonitis feeling – another way to rise up I think and also learn from the inspiring people around us.
‘We become taller by standing
next to tall people’!
I also loved the quote that Nadiya Hussain said on Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast recently where she tells her children constantly ‘Elbows Out’ rather than elbows in; basically meaning create your space in the world rather then shrinking and staying small – a great mantra for anyone I think.
Now on to my supportive words – Re-Energise relates purely to my body, which has been well and truly battered through chemo, even just 5 sessions in I can feel the difference in muscle strength already which freaks me out a little. I know after all this it’s going to take some time to get back to full strength and feel confident that my body will now behave itself and feel strong again!
I’m no great exerciser though; dog walking and 1 Pilates session a week is about my limit but it’s that funny rebel thing again, now swimming is not allowed (infection and picc line!) it’s what I want to do the most! I used to swim a lot and it is very therapeutic so I’d like to Surprise myself by getting back into that, and might even set myself a charity challenge.
Surprise also relates to pushing myself to get back ‘to normal’ as quickly as possible, getting back on track with all my creative projects, adding some new ones in and then ultimately surprise myself and my long suffering family and friends (hearing about it all the time!) by finishing my nemesis THE BOOK – now that really would be the ultimate surprise!!
So, I hope the above gives you an idea of how I use mine, some practical tips of how to go about choosing a guiding word, especially if you are new to this, and that it inspires you to have a go too – what have you got to lose?
I’d love to hear what your word/s are and what they mean to you this year – please pop in the comments below!
Rise, Re-energise and Surprise is my mantra this year and I’m looking forward to getting it painted up and shouting at me in my kitchen!
Until next time…
Juliet The Curious Creative x
Footnote; Rise couldn’t be more relevant this last week as I went into hospital on my birthday no less (you couldn’t make this up!) for 5 days, due to Neutropenic Sepsis! Quite a scary experience but as usual the NHS were fantastic…I’m now becoming a hermit from any winter bugs out there as I do not want to repeat that experience any time soon! Onwards and Upwards!!
I just wanted to update everyone that’s been following along on my Hodgkins Lymphoma journey, because the interim scan results are in and it’s great news – all the tumours (I had 5) have been well and truly zapped by the chemo and have gone!
The PET scan shows I have no evidence of cancer there, although it can’t fully pick up some cells that may be lying dormant…. which is why you have to continue with the full treatment to the end. What it does mean is that we can drop one of the medicines, Bleomycin, which can have some nasty effects on your lungs, so the sooner it goes the better and the rumour is that this knocks off some of the nasty side effects too…here’s hoping!
So, since I told you all about my diagnosis and the start of the journey, pre-chemo beginning, I haven’t filled you in on how it’s gone so far and I thought it might be useful for others out there to hear what it’s really like, especially those who may be starting their own chemo journey soon.
Firstly, let’s start with the positives; the people, all the medical and volunteer staff involved in my care have been amazing, and there are a lot of people!
Here are the team; Haematology specialist nurse – talks you through all the treatment, organises key scans and referrals for additional holistic treatment, financial help, wig appointments and is there to answer any questions, no matter how bizarre, all the time, the picc line nurses who insert a fine tube that goes in through your arm and up around into your chest and stays in until full treatment is finished and make sure you treatment gets in without any pain and keep the line infection free; the chemo nurse team – these are the guys that keep you calm, comfortable and entertained on treatment day, administer the treatment and look out for any reactions and do all the blood tests prior to treatment too; the volunteers on the unit keep you topped up with tea, toast, and lunch; the doctors; consultants and more junior doctors who review you after each cycle, check all your blood results and make sure you are ok for your next treatment and if not give you meds to get you there! And finally, the therapists at a place called The Well Centre (in Barnsley), who give you 6 holistic treatments to supplement chemo and make you feel a little more human, for free!
As you can see it’s a lot of people and that doesn’t even include the staff that do the various scans and tests you need along the way. When you add up all those who help to get you well, it makes you incredibly proud of the NHS. So many people complain about it going wrong, and yes, some appointments that should take an hour can take half a day instead, but overall, I couldn’t have asked for better service and care.
Now onto the harder parts, I‘m not going to lie, chemotherapy is one of the hardest physical and mental things I’ve ever been through.
I was partly prepared; I have family who have been through it but boy is it a complete roller-coaster. And I’m lucky, the treatment I have, called ABVD is one of the most effective treatments out there for Hodgkins, and quick in terms of results – it’s only taken me 2 months to get to this point of success but part of me suspects that’s because it is such aggressive, full-on treatment.
My treatment plan runs every 2 weeks, I have chemo on a Friday and the side-effects mainly hit me in that first week from Sunday to Friday. On the first 2 days I’m mainly buzzing on the steroids that they give you prior to chemo, which have had some interesting, enlightening moments – not least finally coming up with an ending for my book!
The reality of side-effects though is that you don’t have much control over them because you can’t take many medications to quash them, such as paracetamol and nurofen because they artificially bring your temperature down, and you need to keep an eye on that for infection purposes. One relief I have had is that is hasn’t made me sick – the drugs they give you for that, have worked for me, thank goodness!
My main bug-bears are constant aching (kind of like flu), loss of appetite, intense headaches, restlessness, horrible taste-buds where food just tastes gross, hot flushes, ridiculous tiredness and insomnia – essentially I’m going to need some cosmetic surgery after this because I look like I haven’t slept for a month!
But the good thing is, I get a week’s reprieve before it all starts again. In the 2nd week I feel far more human, still tired, but much more my self and able to do stuff, rather than trying not to have a fight with myself, forcing myself to eat or just laying in a zombie-like state watching TV! The challenge on the 2nd week, is trying to fit in as much fun as possible, in-between the next round of appointments.
The mental battle throughout this is just as hard, trying not to be miserable when feeling rubbish and trying not to be angry about the fact that there are few places I can go when I do actually feel well enough to get out.
There are several times already when I have been neutropenic (where your blood white-cell count dips too low, making our immune system practically none-existent) which has required me to take extra injections at home and meaning I have to be extra careful to not expose myself to any bugs out there – i.e. become even more of a hermit!
The next challenge is the hair battle. I’ve been weirdly lucky to keep it for longer than I thought, I normally goes after the 2nd treatment and I’ve just had number 5. I cut it shorter into a bob (like the main picture) a while back to prepare and it’s lasted a while like this but now it is really thinning on top and I know I’m going to have to be brave at some point soon and shave it off, but I’m scared to death about doing that.
From normally long, to wig choosing, to lots coming out on each wash, to my current half-scalf look – the hair loss is a trial in itself!
It’s hard enough not feeling yourself and feeling ill but your hair is so much part of your identity and I know that when I have to face myself eventually with no hair in the mirror, it’s going to be shocking and to me, it will just look awful.
I’ve got hats, scarves, the wig etc so I’ll have to get used to them. I know it’s temporary and I know it will grow back, but that will take months and I just think it’s the cruellest thing for people with cancer to go through, on top of everything else.
So, whilst of course I am so happy the treatment is working and all this is not in vain, I’m also very aware that I’m not even half way through yet – I have 7 more sessions to go, there are still more challenges and side-effects to overcome, follow-up appointments and what I can only imagine for anyone going through this to be that eternal fear – will it come back?, before I can finally begin to get ‘me’ fully back – but I am writing this on my bad week so I’m sure I’ll feel more positive again next week – see what I mean about it being a roller-coaster?
What I am immensely grateful for is the other huge team around me of family and friends that are sending supportive messages, helping out with the kids, calling in to keep me distracted, dropping in flowers and other lovely gifts and telling me all their news (because it’s way more interesting than mine!) – it all helps to keep me motivated so thank you!
Just some of the lovely gifts I’ve received, including handmade jewellery from my friend Rachael of Pippi Silver, green fluorite earrings from Gale Barker who runs the writing group I go to and my friend Gemma wrote to my heroine Author, Clare Mackintosh, who then sent me this lovely note! Feeling very spoilt!
A little bit of sketching is helping to keep me calm!
In the meantime, on my good days, I am trying to be as productive as possible and last week went especially well. I went back to one of my writing classes (it’s in a house so allowed!) and used my chemo-fog brain, continuing when I got home to do my ‘homework’, met up with some Wow Wednesday members for lunch and brainstorming about the upcoming Vision-board Workshop we are doing, got out in the sunshine with the dog, wrote two small writing competition entries and my first blog post of the year on my writing goals, took part in some of the #30daysketchbookchallenge, mind-mapped out my guiding words of the year (blog to follow on that next week) and finally met the lovely Sam Bunch for brunch at the weekend!
Sam wrote the fabulous ‘Collecting Conversations’ book a while ago and so I connected with her via Instagram and it was so nice to meet up with her in real life! She was up here promoting her new book – Menopause – The Hot Topic at Read Bookshop in Holmfirth and the event went down a storm with 40 women! We could have literally talked all day long about every topic under the sun – don’t you just love it when that happens?
Our fabulous WOW Wednesday group just keeps growing and growing!
Today I, a little-shakily from lack of sleep, headed back to our Wow Wednesday group, I begged the doctors and they’ve said I can go so long as I’m careful. Last time we had 6 new members and today another 2 new ladies! It’s going great-guns and I don’t want to miss out – it may just require a power nap in the afternoon to recover from lots of inspiring chat!
So, I’m hanging on to these positive days and it certainly helps you focus when you have a small window of opportunity to crack on with what you want to do. This weekend it’s my birthday coming up so I’m hoping for nice weather to get out into some fresh air with the family and a few other lovely things planned, so come on weather gods, play nice!
Until next time…
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
Ps for those who don’t know my diagnosis story and want links to symptoms and support, please read my initial blog post here
Note 1st; Apologies for the lateness of this one, I wrote it and then just needed to finish it off with pics but then Christmas Eve happened and I ended up half the day at hospital as I have a cold, therefore next chemo pushed back a week and lots of drugs to take….but on the plus side I now get to enjoy an extra week of Christmas without feeling pants…..so all is rosy!
A sunny day on Christmas day so I managed to get out for a walk, woohoo!
Now back to the blog…
Since I began my journey with The Curious Creative Club, I knew from the very beginning that I was still very much a novice in this arena with an awful lot to learn. Yes, I practiced my own creative hobbies of writing, photography and art, but so do many others, and by no means does this make me an expert!
Thankfully I’ve always loved to learn, from a very young age. My Mum says that as a child I was exhausting! Not in a physical sense but because I asked hundreds of questions a day.
I simply love learning, and it’s why I seek out nuggets of wisdom everywhere I go, whether that be at a book shop, through a magazine subscription, an art workshop or listening to an enlightening conversation on a podcast.
In the quest to improve my knowledge on all things creative, my curiosity has stepped up a gear; discovering new trends, new ideas and strategies that can help me take The Curious Creative Club forward.
Learning from other more experienced creatives and business people, I know is key to my development and that of this little business venture. Plus, we really have no excuse not to make the most of the age we live in, as a motivational speaker and podcast host of ‘Rise’, Rachel Hollis often comments; The wealth of free courses on the Internet means we are open to so much more, it’s just whether we choose to access that huge resource; if you want to grow, you’d be a fool not to – I couldn’t agree more!
The wonderful thing about the human mind is the ability to continually learn and with the likes of Google, Alexa (you really can ask that woman anything – I could have really done with her as a child!), social media and more books than ever on the planet, gaining that extra knowledge is seconds away, right at your fingertips, so long as you stay curious.
Of course, the beauty is that you then pass on your knowledge too, sprinkling it with enthusiasm and joy so that the creative community expands even further.
Despite being someone that can flit from one thing to another and get easily distracted, I have tried to absorb what’s out there, more than ever this year.
So, today’s post is a review of the amazing things I’ve listened to, visited and read that have been useful in giving me creative inspiration and knowledge.
I’ll talk through the books I’ve read and people I follow via podcasts, events (and on social media too – visit The Curious Cave for that part), so that you can also check them out, if you like and see if they resonate with you and could also help support you on your creative journey.
Here are my Top recommendations for each section, with some commentary on my Top 3 selections;
Firstly, Creative / business Books:
Just a few of the great reads that have inspired me this year
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth writes beautifully about creativity and her thoughts on its very existence – you won’t fail to be encouraged to try something new and to be swept up in her enigmatic voice.
Meeting the lovely Sara Tasker at a talk all about her book, Hashtag Authentic
Hashtag Authentic – Sara Tasker
Sara is the first person to write about her experience of Instagram, her story behind her hugely successful account @me_and_orla and shares all the hints and tips she’s learned along the way, a must for anyone starting out with a new Instagram account.
Collecting Conversations – Sam Bunch
This was a surprise read for me based on a recommendation from my local bookshop and I’m glad I listened, part auto-biographical and part intensive research – Sam talks about the key events and issues in women’s lives, through many different age decades, with really interesting and relatable results – great for writing research too!
Other great reads to consider;
Conscious Creativity – Phillipa Stanton
On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King
The Multi-hyphen Method – Emma Gannon
Hegarty on Creativity – John Hegarty
Company of One – Paul Jarvis
The Joy of Watercolour – Emma Block
Reading Books: Because if you are a writer, you also need to read!
The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewel
A complex intertwining thriller where the house is as much a character as the cast. I loved this book and devoured it on holiday in 3 days, whilst simultaneously ignoring my family, oops! Lisa’s books always deliver on the character’s and the release date always fall in the Summer holidays – the only downside? A year in-between! My favourite author who just gets better and better.
Where the forest meets the stars – Glenda Vanderah
A beautiful story that keeps you guessing and almost believing the child character’s interpretation of the world before reality comes crashing down. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Big Sexy Love – Kirsty Greenwood
A debut, modern-day Bridget-jones type tale with a tragic undertone but some truly laugh out very loud moments! Great comedy timing and strong characters throughout who left you feeling uplifted. I’ll definitely be looking out for Kirsty’s next book.
This is going to hurt – Adam Kay
I have to also comment on Adam’s debut because it was such an amazing book, filled with both humour and heartbreak from the true reality of a junior doctor working un-godly hours in the NHS. You will laugh and cry and forever remember this book!
Other fab reads this year;
The Holiday – T M Logan
Ordinary People – Diana Evans
My name is Leon – Kit De Wal
Also note the last book on this list I discovered thanks to the Clare Mackintosh Book Group on Facebook (Author of I let You Go, Let me Lie etc); a good resource to find your next read and try different styles to the normal genre you go for.
2019 Events / Workshops I’ve been on:
Conversations of Inspiration – Live at Manchester with Mark Constantine
A truly memorable evening delivered from my favourite podcaster and small business advocate; we had a brilliant evening listening to her interview Mark Constantine of Lush, click here for my full review of that evening.
Sarah Masons Photography Workshop
Here I learned how to use my DSLR camera properly, within a small group in a beautiful barn in Hebden Bridge. Sarah took us through the steps slowly which was good for me and the surroundings provided lots of photo opportunities.
Vision Board Workshop – Yorkshire Writers
Another really interesting event that helped us home in our individual goals that we wanted to focus on for the next 6 months. For a more in-depth review on this, click here.
Other workshops that inspire my creativity;
Acrylic Painting Workshop at Art Group
Weekly Creative Writing group
My favourite Podcasts this year
Conversations of Inspiration – Holly Tucker
You just can’t fail to be inspired by Holly’s in-depth interviews of people who have started from nothing, sometimes struggled but then have forged their path into hugely successful businesses! Holly is so warm and is a true small-business advocate who genuinely cares and lends her advice regularly whilst remaining humble about her own success, and that is why I’m drawn to her style and strength. To get an overview of her year of interviews, check out her 2 Christmas specials out now, full of wisdom from her lovely guests.
Fearne Cotton – Happy Place
Equally as genuine as Holly above and doesn’t shy away from the deeper complexities of life such as struggles with mental health, addiction etc that some of her guests have been through. There is always something to take away and learn from this podcast!
Creatively Human – Ruth Poundwhite
Another inspirational woman who tells it like it is, but also has the courage to adapt to changing situations, she’s not afraid of a challenge! Ruth has a quiet determination about where she feels she wants to be and she takes you along the ride with her whilst talking about unique ways of working, for example if you are more of an introvert like her. I find her podcasts truly fascinating and come away thinking deeper about my little venture and where I want to take it!
Other amazing podcasts I’ve listened to this year:
Dreaming and Doing – Nicky Raby
Elevate your curiosity – Joanne Griffin
Dream and Do – Nicola Rae Wickham
Letters from a hopeful creative – Sara Tasker and Jen Carrington
Rise – Rachel Hollis
So, I hope this has been helpful to see just a glimpse of what is out there and of course there are more listed on my resource page – The Curious Cave.
I believe as much as the doing is important, so is the learning and researching, for example if you want to be a writer, it makes sense to read as much as possible – evaluate other’s author’s styles and see what appeals to you. If you want to share beautiful images on Instagram, then look at other’s accounts, see what works, but also understand how you can be different and use your own style and voice to stand out.
As I’ve said many times before I want this to be a sharing space too, so if you have examples of great podcasters you listen to or a book that really spoke to you this year on a creative level, then please don’t be shy and share in the comments below for us all to benefit!
And finally, this is the last Blog post of this year!! So, thank you for following along and keeping me company, I really appreciate all your support and comments.
I wish you all a lovely Christmas time, spending it with your loved ones and come New Year I hope we’ll all be raring to go once again!
I’ll be sharing my list of new intentions for 2020 (I love this time of the year for that – that re-fresh feeling) and where I want to take The Curious Creative Club over the next 12 months.
After a uniquely crazy, up and down 2019, I’m looking forward to delving into a new decade and the year that I’m focusing on getting fully well and back to my best, fingers crossed!
Happy New Year to you all!
Until next time….
Juliet, The Curious Creative x