The value of connecting kindness with curiosity

So, as I write this I’m still on a high from last week which was pretty nerve-wracking, exciting, mind-blowing and so fulfilling, all at the same time. What am I on about you may ask? Well, I bit the bullet and delivered my first ever creative writing workshop!

From a seed of an idea last year to putting it all together, doing the marketing, working out the tasks and making sure I had enough content to talk to people about, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process. But it was actually when I delivered it and watched the participants really go for it, in front of my eyes, that gave me the most satisfaction –  this was exactly what I’d hoped for!

They approached each task with gusto, some despite calling themselves ‘none-writers’ and what they produced left me lost for words (I know, unusual right?!).

All it had taken was a little direction and their unleashed imagination and hey presto they were on their way into a world of make believe or recalling childhood memories so vividly, I was right there with them.

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‘I loved it! Never thought I was good at / particularly enjoyed writing, but you made it a joy.’ Miriam

What I loved about it was how everyone’s style of writing was so different, so individual and unique and it gave me a real insight into their personalities, which is exactly what I think writing should do, be driven by the way you interpret the world and create that sense of awe to the listener / reader.

Anne Lamott, Author of Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing and Life, puts it better than me:

‘All of a sudden everything seems to fit together or at least have some meaning for a moment. This is our goal as writers I think; to help others have this sense of wonder.’

I was just as inspired by their descriptive, emotional and vivid stories as they were by the tasks given to them, I even learned a new word: Fibonacci – A mathematical sequence of numbers recognised in nature!

The evening went so well, conversation flowed about writing and we enjoyed some delicious cake provided by the lovely Miriam’s Kitchen Table. My participant’s left ‘buzzing’, feeling proud of themselves, relishing having had an inspiring, creative few hours and understanding that they just needed that little nudge and some ideas to get going. I also gave them an 8-page work-book, a small sample of more tasks and tips I’ve learned along the way to further encourage their writing.

‘I enjoyed it all, every task was of benefit, I’m inspired to get started on my writing journey!’ Carol

I also left on a high, with a head full of  ideas (as per!) and couldn’t sleep that night wondering where I could take the workshop next and how it could grow. One idea that came to me was after listening to Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast episode last week interviewing Grace Graham, the Princes Trust Ambassador of the year.

Grace had had a really tough life growing up but is now in a good place and has set up her own business called Workspa, she spoke so eloquently about her struggles and how she’d overcome them, it reminded me of when I used to work with the Princes Trust when I worked at Leeds United. The Club supported the 12-week young person’s development programme, providing a room to be used under the South Stand and funding towards the programme, culminating in a celebration event at the end. It was brilliant to watch the group grow and become so much more confident by the end of the programme and develop a positive view of the future with skills to really help them find work.

It got me thinking about whether my writing workshop could be of any use within that programme, I’m going to contact them and see, because just seeing how proud my participants were at the end of those few hours, I’m sure that feel-good-factor could work really well when working with disadvantaged young people and help build their confidence.

Plus, it comes back to my guiding word of the year ‘Value’ – I want to add value wherever I can and as well as trying to make a small living for myself, I always want to give something back too – nothing feels as good as supporting other people, your community.

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This then got me thinking about something else, an idea for those creatives out there who may have been doing their craft for years, have built up all the skills and knowledge but are maybe too fearful to put their designs out there yet to sell, put pictures online or even admit to others what they do for fear of failure.

What if by teaching someone else your skill, it in-turn builds your confidence too?

What If that increased confidence then gives you the courage to take your creative passion further? How cool would that be? This could in-fact be a win-win for everyone!

I’m not a qualified creative writing teacher, I’ve never ‘taught’ properly, anything in my life, I just had a passion to share the benefits of writing.

I wanted to enable others to feel that pleasure and satisfaction of producing something, losing themselves in a story and I know that anybody can, despite who may have told them otherwise or how much their own fear is holding them back. Added to this I designed simple creative writing tasks, linking into different techniques, such as syncing more closely with your senses, that I thought could work as prompts to get the writing process going and luckily, they worked.

Yes, along the way, I’ve had doubts; Who the hell am I to teach creative writing?

I’m not an expert, and I’m really not, BUT I do have a 20-year-plus history of jobs that were deeply engorged in writing, and I had the diary-jotting, poetry-scrawling, story-telling and now novel-writing experience stacking up quietly in the background.

But above all else, I have this huge nagging voice to share all of this, spread the joy of taking part in creative activities and watch people thrive through living a more enriched life, from a place of kindness,…. of wanting to help.

This is why I set up the workshop in the first place, sinking in to my values for The Curious Creative Club of Engage, Encourage, Enrich and Empower which all ultimately equate to adding value.

As I got into the flow of the workshop, I found I did actually have the knowledge to delve into a deeper conversation. We discussed different writing triggers and tactics for inspiration and I identified the unique qualities of their writing, making them aware of the skills they had shown.

For example, Carol used great dialogue and humour to convey the characters in her story, Neil had the great imagination to link three pictures and build them very quickly into a story and Miriam’s descriptions in her writing brought about an instant emotional connection for us to what she was feeling. As the workshop went on, I could have talked about writing for hours, buoyed by their enthusiasm and I loved every second.

Unbeknown to me whilst writing this I’ve just discovered that it is Random Acts of Kindness day on February the 17th – another great reason to share your talent as I’ve been talking about above and as Jenny Alexander from Writing Magazine has suggested in her free-range writing article (pg 28 of the March Issue), also a good topic to use as a creative workout for your writing (see some of the prompts below this article if you would like to try this.)

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And speaking of random acts of kindness, I want to thank Miriam Leece, who took a chance and let me run the workshop at her gorgeous café. Miriam is a passionate advocate of all things creative too, having a deep love of art and wants to ignite that creative community spirit within her cafe;

‘Nothing makes me happier than seeing this place used as a setting where people can connect and grow.’

We need many people like Miriam in the world!

So, if you’ve ever thought of sharing your creative passions with other people, whether that be as a business idea or as a volunteer, I say ‘Do it!’, so long as you have done your homework and make sure you know your subject inside out; you’ll find it extremely rewarding.

Both routes are valuable and have different benefits, giving you a new direction for your creative interest, sharing your unique knowledge and boosting your own confidence along the way, but as a volunteer you’ll also get that added bonus pleasure of knowing you’ve supported someone in a different way, perhaps helped someone realise their creative dream without them even knowing it was in there? It doesn’t get much more satisfying than that in my book.

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

I’m busy planning for my next  ‘Playing with Writing’ workshop, if you would like to find out more and register your interest, please click here.

Random Acts of Kindness Writing exercises: As written in the March 2019 Edition of Writing  Magazine:

Memoir Prompts:

Jot down a few ideas for the following, whatever comes to mind and remember to stick to the time limit to help you get going and not overthink it.

  • When did someone you didn’t know do or say something that helped?
  • When did someone you know well do something surprising that helped?
  • When did you do something to help a stranger?
  • When did you do something surprising to help someone you know?

Write the story of one of these (15 minutes)

Poetry Prompt:

Think about a time when you had to be cruel to be kind, for example putting a terminally ill pet to sleep or when you’ve had to step back and watch your child make their own mistakes to learn. There’s a wonderful poem about this called For Julia, In The Deep Water by John N Morris.

Your poem will be the story of someone who has to do something cruel to be kind. What do they have to do? Why is it the kindest thing? Write some notes about the person and their dilemma. Imagine you are this character and take 5 minutes to write the story in prose – just as it comes, in the first person, ‘I…’ Using prose warm-ups like this for writing poetry can help you feel your way into the voice of the poem.

Next, take 15 minutes to write your poem, choosing either first person as in the warm up or third person, he/she…’

Looking for the lightbulbs…

Hi there curious folks, this week I want to talk about lightbulbs and I don’t mean the kind that I’m still waiting for my husband to change (it’s been over 6 months, the spotlights are really high up I admit, but above my wardrobe, so each morning it’s like looking into a dark cave trying to decide what to wear!).

Anyway, back to the point, no, I’m talking about those delicious light bulb moments of inspiration that often strike at the craziest of times. For me it’s either 4am, bolt, wide-awake style with a sudden list that I then try really hard to remember in the morning or when I’m strolling in the woods with the dog, the rhythm of my pace, gearing up the idea’s factory.

These days there is enough space in my head for these moments to happen, but when I worked in a really busy role, it happened a lot less. So, what happens if those magic light bulb moments don’t happen? Should you just give up, or should we go in search of divine inspiration?

Well you know what my answer will be! To be honest there are so many sources of inspiration out there now, there really is no excuse –  it’s become so much easier to find them and make them work for you.

For example, take the book I’m reading currently ‘Conscious Creativity’ by Instagram sensation @5ftinf, Philippa Stanton, who recommends looking deep into your own personal traits to become aware of your own triggers.

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She asks the questions that we probably never really ask ourselves to identify these creative triggers and it’s an interesting exercise to work out what kind of creative person you are.

She asks questions like, are you a words person, do you consider yourself to be mathematical, do you accumulate, collect, or are you a minimalist, to name but a few.

This is especially useful for those people who really want to start a creative hobby but have no idea where to start, she then moves on to look at your own aesthetic and creative preferences such as what kind of designs appeal to you, modern or traditional, do you prefer sitting in dark or light spaces, do you feel drawn to textiles?

Again, it’s a really interesting exercise to just focus the mind on what you really enjoy doing creatively.

In my experience, one creative outlet has led to another and now I have a trio of interests that actually, accidentally, work really well together.

My first interest was writing, that stemmed from childhood and a wild imagination, see Writing for my history as to how all that began. Next came Art, probably encouraged by a very artistic dad who used to draw birds and animals regularly and then finally as an adult I got into photography.

Quite often now, I will take a photo for my @soothedbynature Instagram account, which I then need to caption, and rather just writing anything, I use it as a mini-writing exercise of description, thinking carefully about the words I choose so that the story befits the image and the feeling that I’m trying to convey to my followers.

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 I have a thing about hogs weed, their shape really appeals to me!

Later, I might then use that photo to use in a painting or drawing – I’m not very good at just imagining a painting in my head, I need something to refer to and this way I always have a huge bank to choose from! Or I may collect something from a walk in the woods, pine-cones, acorns, leaves and feathers for example to then create a display at home to draw.

When I did my first short-story for the Yorkshire Writers Lunch Blog, it was a photo of the fields down to the wood, that is overlooked by a bungalow, that inspired the story as I often wondered if the people in that house sat at the window watching walkers tramp down to the woods.

It can be even something as simple as naming a painting with a play on words, I like to give them a memorable name that is unique rather than just stating what it is, for example the one below is called ‘Autumn leaves a rainbow’, playing on the word leaves, it’s just yet another small way you can work that creative muscle.

Autumn leaves painting

Another example of this is a painting I bought at Staithes Art Festival last year, not only did I love the painting, but it was its title that made me love it even more and instinctively buy it.

Named ‘The Habit’, because the painting was of a hare crossed with a rabbit, it was perfect for my office at a time when I was trying to create space and time in my day to make my writing more of a habit. I knew by looking at that picture it would keep that at the forefront of my mind.

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‘The habit’ by the fab artist Daub at www.daubart.com

This brings me on to another area on inspiration. I’m very much the kind of person who needs sources of inspiration throughout my home, I need my home to be interesting, a feast for the eyes that feeds my soul too. When typography pieces of art became the trend around 5 years ago, it made me very happy being a ‘words’ person! However, I try not to go overboard and only choose ones that truly mean something to me or are a bit more unique.

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Added to this, one thing I’ve discovered is that I’m really drawn to texture in a big way and colour too. I’ve attributed this to the love of my walks, crumbling dry-stone walls, old wrinkly trees, the smooth waters of reservoirs, dramatic sunset skies and the intricate patterns of leaves or butterflies’ wings; they all really appeal to the way my brain works!

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Just one of my many rugged wall shots, accompanied with a sunrise and a sprinkle of snow

I think it also stems from living in a barn with a huge brick fireplace, chunky beams and a stone kitchen floor, interspersed with soft fur throws, strings of lights, decorations and fluffy cushions – the more rugged, contrasting and quirky the better for me and the cosier I feel.

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Birds and words, what’s not to love?

Much to my family’s distress, (mainly due to the number of them rather than they are that bad!), I also put up my paintings around the house, and not just the ones that are the best of my collection. This is purely to remind me of how far I’ve come and if ever self-doubt kicks in, I can see how I got from there to here and that I will (hopefully!) continue to improve.

This love of textures transfers to my photography and my art pieces, you’ll see a number of rugged Yorkshire walls on my feed and different art techniques, learned mainly from the great artist Pippa Ashworth, included in my paintings, an example of which is below.

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External to my home environment, as well as my walks, fashion and trends also inspire me. I love seeing the new collections come out and this year I’m going to try and experiment with my art to include some of these new trends relating to pattern and colour.

This year the pantone colour of the year is ‘Living Coral’ and if past years are anything to go by, you’ll see this colour starting to translate into fashion pieces, interiors, stationery and gifts throughout the year.

I listened to a great podcast on this – ‘Elevate Your Curiosity’ episode 20 by Joanne Griffin from @arnoldandbird interviewing Elizabeth Stiles, a fashion retail consultant, who talked about how the colour ‘living coral’ will translate into the retail space and how it links in with bigger issues such as climate change.

It’s a really interesting concept to see how the simple choice of a new on-trend pantone colour can actually have a big impact on what we then see in shops.

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Living coral and animal print – two of the biggest trends this spring season

Next, there’s the online world and a huge source of inspiration to be found on platforms such as Blogs, Podcasts, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, although I’d say when it comes to creativity, Instagram is by far the best.

The sheer numbers of creative people out there on Insta is a bit mind-blowing, but if you narrow down your searches to what you are most interested in it is more manageable.

I’ve learned so much from other creatives out there online I wouldn’t know where to begin but the thing I like most is that it is a more friendly and supportive space, with people willing to give you help and advice – just try not to get too addicted or into comparison syndrome – everyone started at the beginning, just like you.

Podcasts are also a brilliant resource to just listen to the many experts out there whilst you’re doing some mundane task such as driving the kids about or washing up. This totally appeals to me as I feel like I’m constantly learning, and building up that knowledge to help me along my creative journey.

Now finally on to the best and most important source of inspiration for me, personally, are the people that I surround myself with, the human faces and interactions and in particular the people I call my creative tribe.

Without becoming a member of my local Art Group there is no way I would have had the knowledge or courage to try the many different art techniques I didn’t even know existed.

This simple, small village, art group has opened up a whole new artistic world and it’s literally like going to Charlie’s chocolate factory each week for me as I stare in wonder at the other artists ridiculous talent or watch one of the professional artists demos and think how on earth do they make it look so easy?

Then there’s the writing group I’ve also joined where Gale, an ex-creative writing teacher sets us really interesting writing tasks that spark the imagination, leaving us scribbling furiously away and usually coming up with at least the beginnings of a short story. Again, I’m amongst like-minded, supportive people and there’s nothing more encouraging or inspiring than that.

If there is one thing to take away from this piece it would be that, people inspire people and when you are part of a small, colourful, creative community it is so much easier and less-scary to pursue that creative dream.

I hope these ideas have encouraged you to go in search of inspiration and chase whole-heartedly the thing you love and are desperate to start doing more of. I’d really appreciate your comments if this has ignited a fire in your belly!

Now, I just need to figure out how to inspire the hubs to change those damn lightbulbs, his trigger is all things mathematical and food, so maybe if I say ladder + lightbulbs = a big bag of dark chocolate pretzels?…

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

As always, The Curious Cave is my long list of resources and inspiration that includes the podcasts, books and insta accounts I’ve talked about above.

And if you live local to me (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire), you can check out the first workshop I’m holding, ‘Playing with Writing’ this coming Thursdsay (Feb 7th), please contact me asap if you are interested as there are only a few places left, thank you.

It’s never too late to pick up a pen, a needle, a paintbrush, … your dream.

Hi there, I’m coming to you at the grand new (not old) age of 45 after my birthday last week and whilst it feels a little scarier to be now closer to 50, than 40, each year that passes in my forties, I seem to care a little less.

This brings me to an important conversation around creativity and the fear to start and that maybe sometimes you might think it’s too late in life to try. Now guess what I’m going to say to that? No, It’s Not!

For me, it was more the insecurities of being young and inexperienced that held me back. I’d always wanted to write a novel, but I just daren’t start because of that fear of feeling I was not good enough as a writer. It took me years to give it ago, for that vision and motivation to start arguing and shouting louder than the inner critic, until finally I could ignore it no more.

That’s the thing with creative dreams, if you want them badly enough and feel passionate about them, they never go away, no matter how far they get pushed back down the priorities list.

However, what does sometimes get in the way is just life, and the stage you are at.

Recently I’ve seen a lot of start-ups and creative passions get taken up by women on maternity leave and I think back and ponder why didn’t I do that?! Why didn’t I make the most of that time?

And then I remember, oh yeah, I had a really tiny baby (4lb 15) who was constantly feeding to catch up, and thought that sleeping in the day or night just wasn’t necessary. As she was a late December baby and I’d had an emergency C-section, I lived on Christmas cake for three months just to get through it all as it was easy to slice whilst holding her!

That time of my life, in the delirious fug of being with a new-born would not have ignited one ounce of creativity in my weary bones. My biggest creative decision back then was to choose what cute outfit to dress my baby in or what could I concoct for tea out of passed-it carrots, frozen peas and just- in-date chicken? (chicken casserole btw– always!).

My son came along 2 years later, and thankfully he was a chunk and slept but by then I was running around after a toddler too so time became even shorter for my own interests.

So, it wasn’t until my later thirties with the kids then in school and me back into a bit of a regular daily work routine, that the time was right to start dabbling with the big dream when I could but without taking it too seriously.

With the arrival of children, play time also became part of family life. The sparks started to re-ignite as I read magical stories at bedtime or watched in wonderment as they explained the giant splodges they’d just painted were infact aliens from Mars.

Then there’s lego! Who knew lego could be so much fun? It’s so sad that when we grow up, as adults we can lose that ability to just play and let our imagination run wild.

This was when my imagination sprung back into action, just being silly with the kids. I made up stories for my son, who’s initials are J.E.T called ‘JET – the super-fast boy’, which he loved and would then make up his own in return to me. My daughter on the other hand would ask for a collection of toilet roll tubes, glue, paint and glitter that she would then transform, two-hours later into a bird house or a hanging mobile for her bedroom.

That time of playing with the kids and getting those creative juices flowing set me up, I believe, for the most creative time of my life so far, my forties. By then the children were less dependent and I started to pick up the pace with my writing, trying to cram it in here and there in-between family life.

Around then I also started reading a different genre of books, the new world of ‘grip-lit’, think ‘Girl on a Train, Gone Girl etc, and then I read a book that had a huge effect on me, called ‘I let you go’ by Clare Mackintosh – it’s still my favourite book in this sector.

I was lucky enough to meet Clare at Beverley Literature Festival, where I listened to her story of how she left a long career with the police, became a freelance journalist and social media manager to then becoming the renowned best-selling and award-winning author she is today.

Clare completed her first novel, a rom-com and handed it into her agent who asked ‘Is this the first novel you want to be remembered for? To which she answered ‘Actually, no’ and went off to start again and that first novel then became the book I love, along with over a million others, but it took her two and a half years to complete and 8 re-drafts!

Far from putting me off, this just inspired me further and I went home, shelved the 10k words I’d already written and started again on the book I really wanted to write. The picture of us both above is still on my fridge, a constant reminder that it takes a big commitment to get to that finish line.

You might think, what a waste of time spent on my first story but actually, that grounding of just having a go and gaining confidence that I could write a longer story, was worth its weight in gold. It was basically like a practice run on how to develop characters and plot-lines and just get used to the regular writing habit.

I started my current novel, ‘The Key to Everything’ back in September 2016 aged 42. That’s the great thing about all things creative – there is no age limit for when you can start. The only things that can hold you back are your own fears or the time to do it depending on your working or family circumstances.

I haven’t got all the answers though, I may have had the courage to start, but I still come up against that fear that holds me back and at the moment I know I’m procrastinating (mainly by doing this Blog!).

I’m at the sticky latter end of my first draft, where I need to tie up all the loose ends for it to make sense to the reader, oh and try to remember all the sub-plots I’ve written now that I’m 76k words in! I’ll get back to it though, I re-read my synopsis last night and it always surprises me that it does the job it’s meant to do, i.e. makes me excited to read it, which then of course has the desired effect of making me want to write it again!

So, what’s holding you back?

If the fear relates to a little lack of confidence then it could be worth looking at what motivates you to encourage you to take that next step. That could be joining a supportive group where you feel safe enough to practice, or if you need to just get more organised plan it into your schedule so that you take more ownership and create the time to create!

You could also do like I did, go and see some of your creative heroes or attend a workshop to learn, be inspired and reaffirm that everyone starts somewhere, no one is an expert from day one.

Another good question to ask yourself is, what feels worse? Listening to that daily voice inside your head forever-more, daring you to have a go (which used to drive me crazy by the way) or having a go and the absolute worse that could happen would be that you haven’t set your expectations at the right level. By this I mean if you set them too high, then you’re instantly setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration in yourself.

If you’re going to start, you need to be a little brave and bold and go in with the only expectation to have fun and learn a little, that’s all you need to think about when you first start.

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That first drawing at art club!..                 To now thankfully something like this, but it does take time.

If I’d have based my future ideals of myself as an artist on that first, truly-terrible drawing of my dog at art group, I would have run for the hills, but now, two years on, I no longer wince at what I draw and paint and don’t feel any of the anxiety I felt on that very first night.

You learn, you meet supportive friends, it gets easier and you leave buzzing from that joyful feeling of creating something, all by yourself.

But you need to experience that sense of satisfaction and pride in order to fully dispel the fear and anxiety, so really my sum up is it just takes ‘one step’, that first tiny leap into the unknown and even if you discover that something is not for you after-all, I can pretty much guarantee that next time something intrigues you enough to try, it will never feel as scary as that first time.

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

As you know, I’m new around here so I’m learning too and I’d love to know how you are finding my posts? Are my tips useful? Does it encourage you to get creative, what would you like more of?

Please leave any thoughts in the comments, I really appreciate it thank you

Also, If my post has got you thinking but you’re still a little terrified of beginning something new, I can highly recommend reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book ‘Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear – It’s a brilliant read that everyone can benefit from, and if you need anymore inspiration, check out The Curious Cave for lots more resources to help you start your journey into a more creative, enriching life.

Reflect to Reset

Looking back to get the best view forwards

There are some people who will have gone all guns-blazing into the New Year with a whole set of resolutions, that by now have probably started falling off the wagon…. but what’s the rush? Isn’t it better to see what thoughts come up in semi-normal life rather than from a more sludgey brain that’s either still slightly hung-over from all that Baileys or on a come-down from a Celebration-box high?

I prefer to slip into January slowly, getting less irritated by the day at the pine needles and glitter still sticking to my socks and the three bins worth of cardboard creating a mountain in the garage.

As the house and routines slowly return to normal, I start to look at what we as a family have done and achieved over the last year. I ask myself, what were the fun bits, what were the surprising bits, what was harder than I thought, what made me most proud, how did the kids grow and change? What have I learned?

I’m definitely the kind of person who likes to reflect and feel grateful, I keep an ongoing list throughout the year of the good stuff because otherwise I’d forget what happened and it would all become a big blur.

If you like this kind of thing and want to go one step further, a great free resource is Susannah Conway’s ‘Unravel Your Year’, which asks you the big questions and gets you to really think about what the last year has taught you. It’s a good exercise to just take some time to think back and acknowledge our successes and challenges.

After doing that I’ve then started to look at my intentions (I prefer this to goals, it’s less daunting) for this year. In some respects this year has been more difficult to set those intentions, because 2018, for us, was a really great year.

Now I’m aware at this point you may be thinking well bully for you and not everyone has had this experience, but trust me I’ve had my fair share of bad ones in the past so I’m clinging on to this run of good fortune whilst I can! But when you have had a bad year, pretty much the only way is up right? And where normally I’d be wanting to improve on last year, this time I find myself thinking, I’d just quite like more of the same please and not wanting to push my luck.

However in terms of creative intentions, there are always so many things I would like to do; new things to try,  new projects to start, new directions to go in – I find the start of the year really exciting! So below are just a few of my many creative intentions for this year.

Art

I want to continue to learn and expand on skills and techniques, particularly the style of Line and Wash which I started last year, learning from a demo John Harrison did at our art club – I find this way of creating a painting so gratifying to do and it’s one of the faster things to complete – great for impatient ones like me!

Staithes Village painting

I’m also interested in working with gouache and acrylic paint to get that really modern, fresh feel, similar to the cactus painting I did here (but this was with water colour) – I plan on creating a new collection in this style, linking into trends and typography – as you know, I love playing with words too!

Cactus painting

The other thing I’m really excited to crack on with is needle-felting, something I tried on a workshop with Sam Jackman (@sam.jackman.textiles) in December. The process itself is more simple than I thought, immensely satisfying and a great stress-reliever – you basically stab a piece of felt with a needle, a lot! The other great thing is if you don’t like how something is looking, you can easily unpick it and rearrange.

I also wanted to see if the piece I did at the workshop would transfer well into a greeting card which it did, the texture looks really good, so this is another collection I want to do as well as framed pieces of the felt artwork.

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Finally I really want to get my art shop set up on here, (I just need to figure out the technicalities) and also continue exhibiting with my art club and at other local venues.

Photography

I’m really excited this year to be finally doing a photography course in April to learn how to use our DSLR camera that we bought years ago but never figured out how to use properly!

Photography is my daily creative passion and I mainly take scenic shots for my @soothedbynature Instagram page but I’ve only ever used my iphone, so this year I was determined to take my photography up a notch and asked for a one-day photography retreat run by Sarah Mason for my birthday. Another creative day that I am really looking forward to and hopefully it will help me increase engagement.

soothedbynature is all about encouraging people to get outside and notice the beauty around them whilst reaping the benefits of fresh air, exercise and the well-being benefits nature brings. The better the photographs, hopefully the more this will inspire people to get out there and see it for themselves.

Another intention I’ve had since last year was to try and get one of my photographs into Psychologies Magazine where they invite people to send pictures in each month along with a caption relating to what inspired the photograph. I’m so happy to report that they contacted me in early January saying they’d like to use the featured image above in the April edition! Yeah, I can now tick that one off my list!

Writing

So, finally to writing, my first love and most rewarding yet most challenging creative endeavour of them all, hence why my book is called ‘The Key to Everything’!

There is the steadfast hard-slog of writing the novel (I’ll be writing a separate post about this soon) which I just HAVE to get that first draft done by May if it kills me (putting it in bold may help me, you never know!) and then there’s this all new shiny, attractive, fast-paced, more instantly rewarding vehicle of blogging.

I suppose it’s like a long-term relationship versus this newbie distraction that’s chatty and friendly and feels good to get quickly typed up – I just need to find a way to marry them together or at least be in the same house! But that’s all in my nemesis of scheduling and simply getting back into my story (my memory is shocking if I don’t write my novel regularly enough).

And then there’s other writing ambitions I have for this year; to continue writing short stories for the Yorkshire Writer’s Lunch Blog, to enter some Writing Magazine competitions and finally to write and deliver the creative workshops I’m developing, the first one being ‘Playing with Writing’.

So, these are my creative intentions this year – some stretching but interesting and pulling me gently forward into another creatively fulfilling year.

If you need some more inspiration as to how to include creative elements into your year, here are my top tips below which really helped me last year:

Have some sessions with a Life Coach – Lots of life-coaches that are training offer pro-bono sessions where they offer coaching in return for feedback to help them qualify. I did this for a few weeks and it really helps having someone impartial to work with you to achieve a specific goal. This lead to other positive actions for me too such as:

Join a Creative Writing group (or any local creative group infact) – If you’re a wannabe writer but sometimes feel stuck for ideas, this can be a real game changer! I joined a small writing group, lead by a retired creative writing teacher. She sets us writing tasks (a little daunting at first but you soon get into the swing of it) and we all share and feedback – great for firing your imagination and trying new ideas to get the writing flow going.

Look for experts or more experienced people to help you –  I also joined The Yorkshire Writers Lunch – a group of ‘some published’ authors who have all the knowledge to help you with tricky aspects of writing and wanting to be published, but as part of it you have to sign up to doing a short-story or poem on their BLOG now and again – but that’s just another good way to challenge yourself!

Learn – it’s our gift as a human! – Ok sometimes it can be information overload out there these days but there are some really good resources. My biggest gift to myself this year was getting into the podcast world – what a revelation!!

Now those mum-taxi journeys and dull grey day dog walks are way more interesting! The podcast world has exploded this last year and there are some really interesting, entertaining and hilarious ones out there – treat yourself, it’s free! Just search a topic or presenter via your usual podcast provider such as Apple Play, Stitcher etc. (see Curious Cave, for all my reading and listening recommendations).

Future Learn is another free resource that has loads of free online short courses in all sorts of subjects and it’s part of the Open University so you know it’s good quality.

Dare to share – If you love taking photos, especially on a specific theme, why not set up an Instagram account. I love this for injecting a quick and easy dose of creativity into your everyday (although it can get a little addictive). As well as sharing your own creativity, there is a huge creative insta-world out there to tap into.

I set up @soothedbynature in 2018 which is very specifically nature based, and I love documenting the seasons and the challenge of finding new images when I’m out there on my walks.

And of course there’s the @thecuriouscreativeclub insta account too for more inspiration on how to get creative.

Visit inspiring events / workshops – great to fire your imagination, learn a new skill and have a fun, different day out with friends. This year I’ve been to Staithes Art Festival (beautiful coastal village near Whitby), Holmfirth Art Week, Country Living Christmas Fair, Kent and Willow Candle making workshop, Sam Jackman’s Needle Felting Workshop and art demos by Pippa Ashworth and John Harrison, and Sarah Ward’s Crime writing workshop.

I hope that this gives you a few ideas to get going and plan your calendar – scheduling it in makes it way more likely to happen…see, I’m learning… 🙂

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

My new guiding word for the year is…..

I know there are many people out there who already do the practice of choosing a guiding word for the year but for those who haven’t tried it, I can highly recommend it as a way to bring some focus throughout the year to what you really, really want from the next 12 months.

I first came across this idea three years ago via Gabrielle Treanor – an over-thinkers coach, writer and teacher who ran an email course on it at the time and the first word I chose that year was ‘Believe’. This was very appropriate as I’d just left a safe, long-term job in financial marketing and was leaping into the unknown to finally attempt my long-held dream of writing a novel.

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Several times a day I would panic and think, ‘Can I really do this? Am I really good enough as a writer?’. At those points I’d let my eyes wonder to the yellow decorative flying pig on the wall in the kitchen with ‘believe’ written across it and focus once more on my guiding word, sit back down at my laptop and just type, hoping one day that self- belief would sink in.

Later I got a poster with Breathe magazine and framed it which said; ‘She believed she could so she did.’, and it reaffirmed that belief is simply everything, without it, as creatives, we are completely paralysed.

It became a standing quote between my daughter and I – she was moving up Swimming squads that year too, as well as starting middle school, so whenever we found things tricky, we’d say this to each other and laugh. That poster is still up in our kitchen and still makes me smile.

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Last year, the word I chose was ‘Inspire’. One of my key values in life is just to help people and quite often animals too (that’s a whole other post, I’m Yorkshire’s answer to Dr Doolittle), in any way I can. I can’t help but try to problem-solve or lend a book out or advice that could help. I hate to see people struggling or any injustice and so it’s just a natural response that’s impossible to squash, unfortunately sometimes to my detriment but you can’t win them all.

So, the word, inspire, after a year of trying different creative avenues and getting curious about living a more fulfilling life, just seemed the most fitting choice but it was also to continue on this path of inspiration for myself and continue to be inspired by others too. It was the year I’d discovered Instagram properly, and this whole other world that existed of inspirational and creative people with such similar interests to me, a complete eye-opener.

Inspire served me so well last year, I was under pressure to find a great one to follow. It came to me after another word was flying around my head but not completely sitting well. That word was ‘Impact’ and it felt a little too forceful for me, I needed something gentler.

Finally, as is usually the case for me, it came to me in the middle of the night whilst on holiday at New Year when my brain had finally relaxed from all the craziness that comes with Christmas and a thousand ‘to do’ lists. Once I had the quiet and space, right there it popped into my head.

However, the slightly weird thing about this word is that it doesn’t sound quite as sexy as the others, or quite as attractive. It’s more steadfast, loyal, potentially even slightly boring, but it is what I need right now in my life and I’m glad it’s challenging my thoughts a little and I’m ok with not picking a nice, bright, shiny word from the top shelf.

The word I’ve chosen is ‘Value’ and what amuses me is this word has ironically lost a bit of value due to it being used so much in the likes of budget ranges in supermarkets or car dealerships! Anyway, I’m putting that connotation to the back of the shelf and focussing on what it means to me!

What I like to do when choosing my word is to make sure I can use it in lots of ways, in all aspects of my life, not just necessarily my main goal. I also like to do a bit of a mind-mapping process to really flesh out how I can use the word and set intentions for each element .

I suppose the main thing I kept coming back to that I wanted to change this year was to feel more valued, primarily by my close family and this is not a sob-story by any stretch and I’m sure that they do value what I do day-to-day for them but at the end of the day I’m more than just a Mum and a wife, I have a brain that’s buzzing with ideas too!

Let me explain; since leaving a corporate well-paid, part-time job just over two years ago, I’ve focussed primarily on the family, and all that entails as a Mum with two children who do a lot of activities, a very energetic cockapoo and a husband that works away a lot.

My weeks, prior to launching this website, were primarily logistical planning, dog-walking, taxi driving, chef and bottle washer and a few lunches with friends to keep me sane! When I’ve had time to think, I’ve squashed some writing of my book and designing of my art cards in there too.

Towards the end of last year, I worked with a coach to try and create more structure, word-count and enjoyment with my writing. Together we identified some key actions to support my writing and turn it more into a regular habit, such as creating a nice work space and upfront weekly planning BUT the biggest light-bulb advice that has really worked for me was to go out and find that tribe of other writers that I could talk to about my writing and share the experience with (i.e. replacing the camaraderie of a working office that I really missed!).

This is where my relationship with ‘Value’ began and why I want it to continue! I joined a local creative writing group – just a few people in a retired creative writing teacher’s house, attempting interesting writing tasks and having coffee and a catch up.

From that, I also joined The Yorkshire Writers Lunch – a mixed group of writers, all on their own journey, some published, some trying to be, like me.

What I loved about both these groups is that I felt valued and equal as a writer, even though in some cases I was nowhere near the level they are at but they made me feel so welcome and were truly interested in my writing journey. It almost validated what I was trying to do and made me feel like I am actually a ‘real’ writer.

That kind of encouragement, warmth and face-face interaction is key to people like us, often working on our own, in our own little bubble, and it is something I will continue to prioritise this year – it makes such a difference to my confidence to just talk to like-minded, creative people!

I value these new connections immensely and the feeling of being valued, (for my brain, not just domestic skills), I guess is what I was missing and I want this to extend to my family, especially my children.

In previous years they’ve seen me writing, but not regularly, seen me doing my art, but not taking it too much further, so I guess what I want and need to do is value my own time and worth, ideas and stories, follow these big dreams that I have for the curious creative club, and take them on that journey with me so that they in-turn start to value me (and my brain!) more – i.e. I’m really not just your personal slave guys!

So that’s a few ways that I’m using my word to guide me and I’m going to leave it there for now and come back to other different elements throughout the year to check in with how I’m using it. It will also guide me creatively of course, I want to produce pieces of art, writing or photography that are valuable to me, pieces that I can be proud of and proud to share too. Oh and these days I like to create a piece of art of my word for the year, so watch this space for my picture of Value…

As well as selecting a guiding word, I’ve set out ‘intentions’ for the year, creative goals I want to aim for and a regular calendar or events / groups that I know will continue to inspire me like last year, I’ll be talking all about that in my next post….it’s a great way to set yourself up for your most creative and fulfilling year yet.

Until next time….

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Hello 2019….here goes!

Hello there! Nice to meet you! Welcome to my new venture, The Curious Creative Club.

I’ve finally bitten the bullet and taken the plunge to start this website and Blog after so much deliberation over the years and many sleepless nights writing posts in my head. I’ve decided enough is enough, the time is right, I just need to do this!’

Like many a blogger I suspect, I’ve been trying to carve out that nugget, that secret ingredient that is going to keep me interested and of course you guys too.

Since leaving ‘proper’ corporate work 2 years ago, I’ve been on a roller coaster of a journey, exploring all kinds of avenues but ultimately, they all revolve around the intriguing world of creativity and rather than continue to pigeon-hole myself into one area, I’ve decided to accept and embrace the fact that I am more of a ‘jack of all trades’ who loves to explore new things, because that’s just what makes me tick and hungry to learn.

I’m hoping that my enthusiasm and passion for what I do will rub off and inspire you too. As scary as it can be sometimes to try something new, it’s also exciting, especially when you create something that you can be really proud of!

My aim for The Curious Creative Club is for it to become a safe-haven for those who want to try something a little different to their usual routine, learn how it can make you feel calmer and less stressed and just enjoy the feeling of being so into something you can’t wait to do it again.

I’m not an expert, I don’t profess to have trained for years in this area BUT my previous roles have all been about communication, marketing and community projects so all those years were not spent grafting in vain!

But this is where my true interest lies.  I’m an avid practitioner in several creative projects and I’m currently studying at a rate of knots to bring you the knowledge and tools, as well as my own experience, to share what I’ve learned and give you the confidence to just give it a go.

I can’t wait to get started and share all my insights with you, I hope you’ll join me so we can learn together and share the experience…I’d love to know what creative ideas / projects you are curious to try but for now, check out the other sections and also the Resource Page (coming soon) for more inspiration.

Until next time…

Juliet x