How Photography can lead to creative joy

 

Last week I dared myself to enter the BBC Countryfile photo competition, partly just to try but also to make me look for the unusual a little bit more when I’m taking my photographs every day. Whilst on that mission, it made me think about how much photography means to me and what an integral part it now plays in my life.

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One of the photographs I entered, these beautiful burnet moths.

These days, it’s instinctive, my eye is trained for those angles or seeing things in a frame and it becomes a physical need almost to reach for my camera, I rarely second guess it, if I see it, it gets captured as if I’m permanently on the hunt for that deeply pleasing image or wanting to retain the visual memory I’m seeing in-front of my eyes!

It has become second nature to me and something that I find incredibly satisfying, the only frustration being if my target flies off, or the sun goes in spoiling the light.

I’ve always been into taking photos, mainly of my family, events, the dog etc, but never as obsessively as this and it’s all because my daily routine has changed and brought me back home, to nature.

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My son’s reaction to the beautiful sunset over Holme Moss last Summer (i.e it’s good!!)

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Bluebell as a kitten, smiling for the camera and a happy Barley of course, who gets a lot of the credit for my journey back into photography

Since getting the dog 3 years ago, it’s thrown me back into my childhood, where I spent more hours in the woods, climbing trees and swinging over rivers than I did at home, often returning covered in mud, much to my Mum’s dismay!

I was a true Tom Boy and learned everything about nature; birds, bugs, creatures and seasons from my Dad. Friends and family find it odd that I can name virtually all the birds I see, spot a buzzard from miles away, see a vole trying to cross a road or a fox sneaking over a wall that they never see.

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From gulls spotted over head on Miami Beach to the striking caterpillars of Yorkshire, I’m always on the look out!

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I didn’t realise it at the time, but from a young age that was my training in being highly vigilant and observant, and it’s come back to me in full force now that I’m back to daily walks in the countryside. I spy the tiniest of ladybirds, caterpillars and  moths, always on the look out for what each season brings. I look up and find the squirrels nests or see jays swooping from branch to branch and in those moments, when I’m looking and truly seeing, that is all I’m thinking about.

Adding photography into those moments and that sense of being in the moment is heightened. Some people believe that by taking the photo, you are removing yourself from being fully present, hiding behind a lens but I think it is the opposite.

To me it bringing more clarity and focus, you’re zooming in and seeing, feeling the detail, wondering how a bee goes about its day, waiting for a red-crested grebe to re-surface so you can capture it’s unique silhouette out on the water, understanding the value of patience to get that perfect butterfly shot.

You’re constantly noticing the little things such as the way the light falls on an image and if you are out there often enough, you really start to recognise how the land changes through the seasons, the pattern and natural order of things and that makes you feel more grounded as a human being, part of the bigger picture. These are the benefits I’ve discovered, and why I always come back from these walks with a sense of calm and readiness for the rest of the day – it’s simply my booster tonic.

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From the way the light streams through to my favourite bench in the woods to cow parsley silhouetted against a perfect blue sky….these are the sights that make my soul sing.

Yesterday I met up with an old friend who has also taken up photography as a means to making sure he keeps fit and gets out for a walk every day ! You can see his lovely work here @richard.coomber

Such has his love grown for photography, as a way of making his walks far more interesting, that he’s even now bought a macro lens and is, in his words, getting ‘slightly obsessed with it’, claiming it’s now taking over his life!

And I can fully understand that, because it is so fully absorbing, you could easily get lost in it for hours! For those of us who then share their photos online or even just print them off and put them in the album, just by looking back at them or looking again when you are editing them and uploading, you get a double / triple dose of the joy and satisfaction you originally received when taking them. Plus, it doesn’t even cost anything, it’s just a natural endorphin-enducing activity!

But don’t just take my word for it, science also backs this up, for example in one particular article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Following the first extensive investigation in this matter, conducted by PhD’s Kristin DiehlGal Zauberman, and  it concluded:

“We show that, relative to not taking photos, photography can heighten enjoyment of positive experiences by increasing engagement.”

The researchers conducted a series of nine experiments involving over 2,000 participants. They were asked to participate in an activity (like taking a bus tour or eating in a food court) and were either instructed to take photos during the activity or not. In a survey afterwards, almost every participant who was asked to take photographs, reported higher levels of enjoyment.

Photography also opens doors into other creative hobbies (hence the main photo!). For me it’s not just the taking of the pictures that enables me to use my creativity every day, constantly searching for something visually new and unique to post on my @soothedbynature Instagram account, it also gets me thinking how to caption it, thus making me use my writing creative ideas too.

Sometimes that may be linked to how I’m feeling emotionally or what’s going on in my life at the time. Other times it may be linked to what’s going on in the outside world such as awareness days, big events or the seasons changing, again I try and switch it up each time so my followers don’t get bored!

The only downside to photography is when you become too self-critical or judgemental of yourself, there’s a great article about that here and how you can start to recognise your thought pattern and learn from it on the National Geographic website.

Plus of course there’s ‘comparisonitits’ but the great thing about photography is that you’ll start to find you own style and favourite subjects, for example Sarah Mason who I took a photography retreat course with, loves taking pictures of children and families, but in quite a dark and light style which really conveys emotion, click here for examples of her work to see what I mean.

So my advice for anyone who wants to start doing something creative is that photography is a great place to start. It’s so easily accessible, everyone has a phone with a camera and that’s really all you need at the start and you can get really good results.

You don’t need to wait for the paint to dry or to spend hours writing a master-piece but quite often photography can lead on to and inspire these other creative avenues too. I use my photos plenty of times as a reference for a painting or drawing.

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My little ink sketch of this photo last week!

As with anything you start though, don’t expect to be an expert overnight, the joy is in the learning and the ability to laugh at yourself if something doesn’t quite work. The brilliance of photography is that it is instant and will take 2 seconds, or maybe a minute at the start, to rectify something or improve it.

For those wanting to get even more creative with editing or erasing things like annoying blue spots, there are lots of free Aps on the market, I use Snapseed which is really simple to use.

Don’t forget photography doesn’t have to be a lonesome pass-time either, grab a friend and create a challenge between yourselves, or take the kids over the summer holidays and do a six-week photography project on a topic of their choice.

This is another creative way to fill those weeks, get them outside in fresh air and will make a fab diary for you to look back on in years to come. You could also print off their favourite photos they’ve taken and put in a frame in their room – giving them a sense of pride of what they achieved, and of course it will bring them added joy just looking at it.

So, what’s stopping you? Get out there, be curious, stop and smell the roses so to speak and notice what sights make your spirit soar then capture it and bank it for a future happiness hit. It’s the perfect time of year to start with so much to see and the weather being kinder. It can literally be anything too, not necessarily my favourite subject!

It could be boats or buildings, cats or Thai food, the colour red or interesting doors (as above!), or you can even create interesting flat-lays to photograph to really challenge your imagination. The list is endless so take your time to find out what your passion is, what you’re naturally drawn to, what fills you with joy and you’ll love it all the more.

Do let me know how you get on, share your photos with me and happy snapping over the Summer!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative

Ps I’m going to see Holly Tucker’s ‘Conversations of Inspiration’ Live podcast event this week in Manchester with some friends! So excited, will tell you all about it next time!

PPs Writing this has given me an idea for a Summer photo # project challenge via my @soothedbynature Instagram account, please follow and watch out for updates, likely to start on the 1st of August.

 

Who’s cheering you on? And are you backing them too?

 

Holmfirth Artweek

This week it’s Holmfirth Art Week, a huge festival locally that has raised almost £1Million in funds for Macmillan Cancer and has been going since 1967.

It attracts 400 exhibiting artists, over 2000 pieces of artwork and approximately 10,000 visitors and spreads out from the Civic Hall, where the main exhibition is, to 32 fringe venues across the centre of Holmfirth, bringing a creative buzz to the picturesque town.

Shelley Art group (that I’m part of) were lucky to be invited to use the Market Hall as part of the fringe festival again so we’ve all been busy prepping new Artwork to exhibit and wares to sell on our tables.

It’s a busy time of year for all involved and this year felt particularly rushed and challenging due to me having a current eye virus that isn’t going away any time soon, much to my annoyance! It’s made it difficult to paint for long periods of time, it’s very sore!

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My pictures all up ready for Holmfirth Art Week!

However, what I want to really talk to you about and ask this week is; Who is on your team as a creative? Do you cheer them back and acknowledge their support? Or do you feel you’re not getting enough support and want to build a team to give you the best chance and gain confidence?

Let me explain with just my ‘Art’ hobby as an example. Two and a half years ago, I didn’t ‘do art’ as such, I doodled now and again but nothing of any substance and I certainly didn’t sit down to have a go properly at home.

All that changed when I got chatting to a friend, Fiona, (we’ll call her Team Member (TM) no.1).

She was part of Shelley Art Group and a committee member and encouraged me to go along. I had big reservations and was a bundle of nerves on that first night, see ‘Art’ for that story….and although the rest of the members were ridiculously talented, it didn’t matter, because they welcomed me in and have given me golden snippets of advice ever since, we’ll call them Team Member no 2, as there are many in the group!

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Just two of the very talented members of Shelley Art Group, Kathryn and Sybil

Next came the demonstrators, amazing artists like Pippa Ashworth, Paul Talbot-Greaves and John Harrison to name but a few who taught me brand new skills (I was never trained in Art) and ways of looking at things and different materials to try. Their passion shone through too and inspired me to try new things = TMs 3.

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John Harrison giving us some perspective on perspective! This was so tricky!

As I slowly developed and improved, so did the compliments from family (TMs 4); my husband’s sage nodding graduated to ‘Yeah that’s not bad’ and eventually ‘I prefer that one’ – If you knew him you’d know this is high praise indeed! And he stopped shaking his head when paintings appeared on our walls!

Thankfully my kids are a bit more effervescent and are my biggest fans.

This is my daughter’s favourite picture on the left below as it ‘looks exactly like the path to the woods’ and I’m not allowed to sell it!, and my son’s favourite picture is the Staithes village one on the right.

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He likes art too and this week has decided he wants to do Abstract Art, and this is the result – watch this space he now wants to set up an Instagram account over the Summer with posts of his Art!

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Pretty cool for an 11 year old!

Other experts then joined my Team (TMs 5), the staff at Calder Graphic’s in Huddersfield, advising me on paints, pens, brushes and paper – I didn’t have a clue! They also do great demo events too, bonus!

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TMs 6, are my customers, just a few at the first group exhibition I tried, and I was thrilled when a stranger bought a painting, my first true sale!

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That first sale, I never thought it would be my little rainbow tree!

This year I sold almost £200 worth of work at the group’s exhibition, (slightly ecstatic about that!) which shows just how far I’ve come and that experimenting in different styles is paying off.

Also my long suffering friends (TMs 7), which I’d bombarded with photos of my pictures, were cheering me on from the side-lines and coming along to see my work, boosting my confidence and enabling me to start taking it all a bit more seriously, maybe I could do something with this?

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My angel squad put up with a lot of picture bombardment!

By the first Holmfirth Art Week we attended last year, I dared to have some of my artwork made into printed cards, not having a clue what would look good; border or no border, portrait or landscape –  here came in Jean from Holmfirth Colour Print to the rescue, with her years of experience, she transformed my pictures into professional looking cards, with titles and contact information on the back too – they looked brilliant! I’ll never forget that first collection – I could now officially play shop, even the husband was impressed!

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Jean to the rescue, so glad she’s on my team!

Jean (TM8 of course), continues to print all my cards and larger prints and she does an amazing job, I even created a personal Christmas card this year and got her to print that too!

Which then brings me on to my sellers (TMs 9) – Firstly Liz, at The Watering Can. On a whim one blustery day I took my cards up to her newly opened florist and dared to ask to sell my cards in her shop (I am rubbish at sales talk btw). Thankfully she agreed as she loved them and continues to sell them now, the perfect accompaniment to her gorgeous bouquets and plants!

My bird collection on display at Miriams and available to buy!

And now I have a second seller! Miriam, an inspiring lady who hosts my writing workshops and WOW Wednesday group at her lovely community café, who supplies me with many lattes and lunches, great chat and brunches (there’s a poem in that I’m sure!) – much needed fuel for creatives, and now sells my ‘Bird Collection’ cards too.

Next up, key Team Member (10!), is Chris from Springfield Hobbies, in Denby Dale – a life-saver local business in framing and stringing pictures and finding the perfect mount too to use on my pictures – the difference it makes is huge and such good value for money!

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What a difference a decent mount makes! Thanks Chris!

And finally my star striker (Shirt 11), is my accountability buddy Clair, who’s been instrumental on all my paths this year (writing especially, and there’s a whole other squad for that mountain I’m climbing!).

Clair works for herself as a social media manager @asocialnature  and we set up this accountability idea between ourselves, to basically make sure we stopped talking and start doing!

Thankfully, it’s working, as each Friday we reel off on text all that we’ve accomplished that week and tell each other they’re doing great!

This may sound a tad cheesy but not only does it help us to reflect on the week, rather than getting lost in the detail but it also serves us well creating a list for the end of the year to fully look back on and see what we’ve achieved.

And of course this then extended into the idea of WOW Wednesday’s (our bi-monthly community accountability group) which is working so incredibly well I can’t stop grinning or talking about it and now we have a whole extra team (17 people in total so far attending after just 3 meetings!) supporting and cheering us and everybody else on! (Probably the loudest members of my team, in a good way! TMs12)

So as you can see the point I’m getting to is that in just this relatively short artistic journey of a few years, there are literally at least a 100 people helping me along in all kinds of aspects that are essential for me to be able to do what I do, especially if you also factor in artists I follow on social media and my followers too who send me lovely comments

Yes, it is me that creates the designs and produces the artwork, but without Chris and Jean and Calder Graphics, they wouldn’t look as good.

Without my supporters, followers, sellers and accountability buddy believing in me and liking my work, I could easily have given up and not had the courage to put myself out there and dare to call myself a ‘newbie artist’ (I think it will be at least another 10 years before I can say just ‘artist’ but that seems to be the norm!).

Without my family supporting me with childcare , I couldn’t have gone to art club or set up at exhibitions and my husband may have moved out over lack of table space and living in a virtual gallery surrounded by pictures he’s mostly unsure of!

And most importantly, without Fiona encouraging me to go to Shelley Art Group, me feeling very welcome there, and learning from the immensely talented members, this journey wouldn’t have even begun in the first place, and what a journey I would have missed out on.

These days I can’t believe I haven’t taken art up sooner, if only I’d known its restorative powers and realised the true gift of creating something from scratch with just an idea and materials and what joy that would bring.

Nothing, is more meditative, absorbing and truly relaxing for me. It is the only thing, (other than perhaps reading a gripping story) that can switch off my energetic brain and in a world that is crazy busy and never still; it’s a magical and much needed find.

So, my advice is this:

  • if you are wanting to try and start a creative hobby, look for your team. Start slowly, ask questions and you will find those key members that will lead you to the next step and to build connections.
  • Do your research well; seek the clubs, the Instagram accounts, your friend’s cousin’s talented brother, the YouTube videos that can teach you new skills without even leaving the house – they are all vital ingredients to become the best you can be at your chosen craft!
  • Further down the line, when you’ve gained the skills and confidence, hunt the opportunities, dare to share and you’ll find a whole other new audience to join your team and before you know it you’ll have a mini tribe who appreciate your efforts and like and follow what you do.

And so, as our group enjoys getting together and being a part of Holmfirth Art Week, connected by their passion and love for what they do, I want to say a huge thank you to all those who have been a part of my art journey, and will continue to be.

I’m still at the very beginning, still got an awful lot to learn, still very much a newbie but I’m enjoying every new direction it is taking me and will be forever grateful of this whole inspiring, arty world I’ve discovered.

I wish you well with your journey’s too, and if you’re at the very beginning, I hope this has helped and encouraged you to find your biggest supporters, teachers and advisers – and remember –

We rise by lifting others, so make sure you back your team members too.

Do let me know in the comments below how you get on and Good Luck!!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps Incase you are wondering the main picture is me holding up my team above and shinin a light on them! A particularly dodgey art piece by me but remember the fun is in the process, and who doesn’t like paintings rainbows?!

PPs Whilst I haven’t mentioned any podcasts above (shock or what?!) because they don’t directly link with my art work, they are of course still important on this creative journey in general. This week Holly Tucker talks to another favourite woman I admire who also multi-tasks between lots of creative projects – Fearne Cotton – it is well worth a listen on ‘Conversations of Inspiration!’

Myself, Clair and Miriam are going to the live version of the podcast in Manchester next week, I CANNOT wait and will be reporting back!

Create the opportunities for your kids to grow and shine

Hi everyone, I can’t believe we are now into July!! It’s going so fast!

This week I’m slightly exhausted but buzzing from helping out and then watching the fantastic Rebel show this weekend at Lawrence Batley Theatre.

Both our children performed, and watching almost 200 others on the stage too is an incredibly emotional experience, because we know all the work that’s gone into it from the teachers, the organisers, the helpers and all the parents getting the kids to rehearsals and also the costumes (which is a task in itself!).

There was a child who’d had surgery on his arm just 2 days before and was dosed up on pain killers, a boy who was missing his uncle’s wedding and so many kids (many tiny ones) doing their absolute best in such hot conditions back stage, I’m amazed they all didn’t melt let alone give such energetic performances.

I helped out back stage on Saturday and it’s chaos, many kids have quick changes into their next act, everyone’s running around, the atmosphere electric and there are some hairy moments, but out front in the audience you’d never know the whirlwind going on behind the scenes!

We then took our turn in the audience yesterday and loved every minute, particularly the ‘Bring on Tomorrow’ song from Fame which my son was in (I love that song, I was filling up!) and then the whole finale of Spice Girls songs medley, started off by a girl singing an a capella version of Viva Forever, now also downloaded onto my play-list!

Both our kids have now been involved with Rebel for over 5 years now and we’ve watched them grow in confidence and really love being involved in such a huge family of children and teachers who are so passionate about what they do and it really shows when you get to see for yourself what they do in class.

All the effort it sometimes takes as parents, shipping them about from activity to activity is so worth it when you see what they learn from these classes, important qualities such as respect, encouragement, enthusiasm and shear hard work to master the steps, a song or a scene and making sure they work together to make it the best it can be.

And, of course it takes a lot of guts to get up on stage in-front of a packed audience! (I wouldn’t dare!).

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‘It’s not always about being the best but doing your best’

Rebel’s motto brings out the best in all the children and encourages them to work hard for their dreams.

Anyway, this is not just a post about just this weekend, but more about how I feel it’s so important to encourage creative pass-times for children, whether that be singing, dancing, acting, cooking, art, reading or writing stories. It’s in these kinds of environments that children can share their ideas and imagination, figure out problems and try things out without any worries of getting something wrong, it’s all a big experiment and finding out what works and learning from that.

In a world where our constant challenge as parents is how to limit screen time, this can be a weapon in our armour, but something they equally enjoy too.

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Simple things like making pizza and choosing toppings gets them involved in something different to the usual form of entertainment.

So, what’s the science behind it? Let’s take a look at art as an example (taken from this article on parents.com)

Fostering creativity won’t just increase your child’s chances of becoming the next Picasso. You’re also helping him develop mentally, socially, and emotionally, says Ecklund-Flores. Creating art may boost young children’s ability to analyse and problem-solve in myriad ways, according to Mary Ann F. Kohl, author of Primary Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product.

As kids manipulate a paintbrush, their fine motor skills improve. By counting pieces and colours, they learn the basics of math. When children experiment with materials, they dabble in science. Most important perhaps, when kids feel good while they are creating, art helps boost self-confidence. And children who feel able to experiment and to make mistakes feel free to invent new ways of thinking, which extends well beyond the craft room.

And that’s just the start, there are so many benefits to children being creative I can’t shout loudly enough about it! So instead I’ve broken down what I think the key benefits are below;

  • It teaches them to be expressive and use their emotions

In particular, in classes such as acting, dancing and singing, it’s all about conveying that emotion to the audience, so they’re initial way of interpreting it ends up being bolder and more expansive, guided and encouraged by their teachers. It teaches them to dare to go there, without fear of being laughed at, or to un-tap what they really want to do, for example, throw a joke into a dramatic piece because that is part of their personality.

This really worked for me ‘shy’ daughter when she was young because she soon realised that all the kids were doing this, it was normal, and therefore nobody laughed or thought it unusual, they’re a part of something that is enjoyable and fun – they end up not taking themselves so seriously or worrying about what others may think.

  • Mistakes are ok – paint for the bin

Mistakes, in art for example, are more than ok, it’s how we learn. If they’ve never used watercolour or acrylic paint before, they’ll have no idea how differently they behave, but that’s all part of the experiment and working out what each type of material’s magic quality is.

‘Paint for the bin’ was the best piece of artistic advice I’ve ever been given, and may help when dealing with nervous children, let them experiment, knowing it’s just for them to see what happens and will head for the bin and then when they’ve learned how paint or pencils or pastel works on paper and thought about what picture they’d really like to create, they’ll be even more chuffed with they’re final results.

  • It builds resilience and encourages teamwork
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den building

A great example of this is letting children work together in a team to build a den in the woods. They have to gather wood, work out the best place to put it and start laying the pieces. It will take time and patience to work out what goes where, what will balance, and then what will fall down (hopefully not on their heads) and they’ll have to re-do.

Then there’s added personal touches to make it their own; will they add a carved logo, a leafed roof, a bunker to hide in, a secret door, a club flag on a branch? All part of the fun and letting their imagination run wild.

  • A huge sense of pride

Whether it’s finishing that den, after hours of work and knowing it’s yours and our friends, putting your beautiful picture in a frame in your room, playing an instrumental piece and getting all the notes correct, overcoming stage-fright, remembering all of your lines, or the thrill and exhilaration of being on stage, the list is endless, and I’m sure for teenagers especially, those feelings and memories will last a whole lot longer than how many Instagram post likes they got that day (although they may share that sense of pride on there, which I think is allowed!)

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The post my daughter shared in costume for her first number, filtered and pouting of course because that’s what teenagers do!

  • An extra conversation topic, for all the family

This is not to be underestimated! How many parents out there of children, I’d say aged 9 and above, struggle to get any conversation out of them about their day or life in general?

At a certain age school becomes a boring topic for our children, there’s not usually much new to say, unless a teacher got locked in the loo, so it’s useful to have something new to discuss and be excited about!

The show is pretty much all we’ve talked about for the last few weeks, their excitement, their nerves, the costumes, the snacks to take (food is always in there somewhere), the hairstyles, the timings, etc etc you get the picture….but that excitement is catching, gets the whole family involved and means it becomes a great family memory to be talked about in years to come.

  • It can discover talent and lead to amazing opportunities

Not every child is great at sport and yet so much emphasis is put into this at school and at home. Wouldn’t it be great if creative opportunities and skills got an equal look-in too?

Not every child is going to find their place in a sporting team or hobby and it’s important that we don’t close off other opportunities to them.

If they show an interest in creative subjects or even if they don’t at first (mainly because it’s something that’s never been thought of before), it’s key that we open up these avenues, because it might be just what they need.

I know a girl that seems incredibly quiet and shy and yet she is an amazing artist, who presents her skills online and even does tutorials, but you would never guess that she would have the confidence to do that – it’s her passion in art that gives her that confidence – it’s her super power.

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One of Katie’s amazing portraits, see her Instagram account here

Through his love of his Rebel classes in musical theatre, drama and singing, and working hard, my son has been signed up to Rebel’s casting agency and has had some brilliant opportunities, working as an extra on Emmerdale, Peaky Blinders, Shop Smart Save Money, a film – Walk Like a Panther and this year toured with Opera North’s ‘The Magic Flute’ production – all amazing experiences with memories he’ll treasure forever and he wouldn’t have gotten those opportunities, had we not found and encouraged his creative passions.

The Rebel Team have then nurtured that interest and given him all the confidence and skills he needed to love what he does and keep improving.

My daughter’s the sporty one, swimming for Borough of Kirklees swimming club 6 days a week – she found her lane and is committed like crazy to be getting up all hours to swim but she still also does Rebel, loving the dancing aspect, learning the routines and enjoying her creative expression through dance.

I’m so glad that my son found his super-power too and that they both absolutely love what they do – ultimately that’s what it’s all about.

  • Sing, loud, anywhere, and especially in the car

Ok, that’s not a benefit, it’s a command! But my point is, use up dead time to do something creative and singing is a really easy one. I’ve yet to find a child who hate’s music.

When my kids are grumpy or arguing in the back seat, the only thing that works, for us all including my stress levels, is to put the music on loud and sing our hearts out – you just can’t feel grumpy or cross after that!

It works equally in the kitchen when waiting for dinner or in the background when they are doing homework – it’s a far more chilled environment for them, providing they can still concentrate of course!

  • Finally, doing anything creative is relaxing and mindful

Children these days have a lot to think about, they’re minds are mostly ‘switched on’ learning at school, homework, multi-tasking between TV and other screens and it can leave them either ‘wired’ or over-tired.

Obviously getting outside and doing exercise either at home or via a hobby is equally important in all of this and for creativity too but then if you can also encourage some creativity at least a few times each week it will really help them switch off their minds, relax and slow-down and foster a better night’s sleep too.

Reading rates for children at home are down significantly as they become more drawn to Aps and YouTube as a source of entertainment but again I couldn’t shout this from the roof tops louder – reading is sooooo important for your children and has a whole host of benefits which are aptly described here via a LifeHacks.org and although written for adults is also pertinent for children too.

Also, Clare Mackintosh shared a really useful link on her post today too about how to encourage children to read more, see here.

And what better way to end a day than to drift off on the imagination of someone’s story creation and picture it in your own unique way?

On that note, guess how fabulous Clare Mackintosh’s new book ‘After the end’ is?

Answer – very! Lead by example, have books around the house and go grab a book and read! Ok, bossiness over but hopefully you get my point?

I hope you’ve found this interesting and food for thought, as always I’d love your feedback as it really helps me to know if I’m hitting the mark or not, please do comment below and let me know your thoughts, thank you.

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s I have just two spaces left for my next writing workshop on Wednesday 10th of July, click here to find out more and register your interest.

PPs – Don’t forget the next WOW Wednesday is this week! Click here for more info on this fab local catch-up!

Focusing on the good stuff!

Hello! This is a bit of a strange subject this week but it’s on the back of a pretty horrendous week to be honest and quite frankly my head’s a shed so instead of trying to delve into a theme when my brain’s not quite with it and working, instead I’m focusing on all the positives going on and what I’m looking forward to in the next few weeks in the hope of channelling some positive vibes!

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New Creative Experiences

Once again, my curiosity has taken me off in different directions to learn something new…for myself, but I also like to have a go and experiment so I can share my experiences with you guys too, here’s what I’ve been up to!

Pyrography Art

Last week I had a go at something new and as usual I loved it! It was a pyrography class, which is basically using a really hot wire instrument to burn marks into wood to create a design or piece of art.

Jac, from @positiveearthfurntiure and a pyrography artist herself has recently set up the workshop  as an offshoot of their recycling furniture business.

She talked us through how it worked, demonstrating the technique and making it look easy, and then it was our turn to have a go! It took practise to work out the pressure to apply and how to work with the grain of the wood but we managed to produce some pretty good stuff I think and it was really good fun!

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Some of Jac’s work                   My attempt!

Working with Essential Oils

Thanks to meeting Tamara at our WOW Wednesday group, I had the opportunity to go to one of her new events to learn all about essential oils and how to use them.

Tamara works with doTERRA oils, one of the few that are a higher quality percentage of essential oil compared to many high-street options.

She talked us through the various oils and how they linked into different feelings of well-being, such as calming, tension relief, restful, sharpening focus, uplifting, respiratory support, protective and grounding.

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We then got to create our own blend of oils depending on how we wanted to feel which was fascinating as everyone likes different smells! Finally, we used our blend to be taught a hand massage, to release the fragrance and feel very relaxed!

The oils can also help with a whole range of health conditions so I then mixed a blend including respiratory oils for my son to see if it will help with his really bad hay-fever.

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It was a great evening and really interesting to see how much oils can potentially help rather than always reaching for medicines that don’t always work and they smell…..divine, I couldn’t stop sniffing my wrists!!

You can find out more about Tamara’s business at her Instagram account – @missbeatyscupboard

My Current Creative Projects

I’m pleased to say that setting up the WOW Wednesday events is not only working for the participants who are coming along, but it’s also working for me, kicking my butt into gear on writing my book! WOW Wednesday is basically a bi-monthly event where a group of local creatives, business owners, entrepreneurs and people who are training, get together and talk trough our aims for the next few weeks in order to be accountable to someone and therefore more likely to do it!

We’re only a couple of meetings in but so far it’s working really well with everyone getting on and tackling their tasks! And it got me back to writing, which I’d been procrastinating about like mad so that’s a major win in my eyes!

The next meeting will be Wednesday 3rd July, 9.30am at Miriam’s Kitchen Table if you would like to join, we have an array of talented people and very different businesses!

Holmfirth Art Week

One of my tasks on my accountability list is Holmfirth Art Week! This is a huge event locally and many people come to visit. Our Shelley Art Group are once again exhibiting in the market hall as part of the fringe festival and so I really need to crack on a get some pieces ready!

It’s such a great community event, the only problem being I hardly even make any money because I end up spending loads on the art pieces I love dotted across the venues of the whole exhibition!

I help out manning our venue too and I love it, chatting to local people and visitors and leave the week feeling re-inspired and wowed by the sheer amount of talented artists in our area! Cue, there will be talk of wanting to set up an Etsy shop again!

Writing

Once again, I’ll be trying to meet a target of 2000 words by the next WOW meeting, which really isn’t a lot so I have no excuse! I’m determined to get this first draft finished by the time the kids break up, come on Juliet…Focus!

I also have Writing Group homework to do, and I’m thinking of joining the Huddersfield Authors Circle as I know they have a wealth of talent that may be able to offer me some advice and give me constructive feedback, I need all the help I can get!

Photography

Despite all the crazy rain we’ve had across the country and definitely in Yorkshire, Summer is bursting up all around us in the countryside.

I’ve been really enjoying the bright colours on offer; bright blue skies, fluffy clouds, sunny buttercups, fuscia foxgloves, cornflower forget-me-knots, tangerine sunsets and the serene stretches of fields of green – it really is a feast for the eyes out there at the moment and brings a new excitement to capturing images!

 

I’ve recently found out about the Countryfile Calendar Photography Competition for 2020 and the theme this year is beauty and the beast, to be interpreted however you like!

You can enter up to 3 photos and the deadline is 12th July for anyone wanting to have a go.

I’ve been out there practising and getting some really nice comments on my @soothedbynature Instagram account so I’m definitely going to challenge myself and enter.

I received this lovely comment this week, which made my day as that’s exactly what I want my pictures to do, soothe you!

“I love your account. Such lovely pictures and very soothing to look at. One of my fave Insta accounts!” – @thisalicelife

What else is coming up?

Clare Mackintosh’s new book launch! If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Clare who’s written 3 previous thriller-type books and one based on her life in the Cotswolds. I had the privilege to meet her years ago (see here for that story) and not only is she an amazing author but also a very down to earth, inspiring woman who takes the time to engage with her readers.

For those who know her story, you’ll also know that very sadly, she lost one of her twin babies to meningitis, before she became an author.

Her new book ‘After the end’ sounds like it’s going to be a truly heart-breaking read but also one that makes you think about life and the decision the central characters have to make.

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It’s out on Tuesday 25th June and I am literally holding my breathe on countdown because I know it will be all-consuming,  ground-breaking and emotional, I cannot wait.

Conversations of Inspiration by Holly Tucker – Live in Manchester!

‘Conversations of Inspiration’ is simply my absolutely favourite podcast out there for creatives and new business start-ups.

Holly Tucker (co-founder of Not on the High Street, owner of Holly&Co AND UK Small businesses ambassador) interviews amazing people about how they started their businesses, their background growing up and always finishes with them reading a letter to their younger self – often a very emotional letter – I’ve been known to cry on dog-walks listening to it!

Her interview style is passionate, warm and encouraging and she is such a pleasure to listen to, as are her truly remarkable guests – Levi Roots (of Reggae Reggae Sauce fame) was a recent one and wow what a story, see here.

I honestly can’t recommend this podcast enough! Every creative needs Holly in their life, someone who really believes that creatives and small businesses can change the world and will be fighting your corner all the way.

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Just one of the many inspiring quotes I’ve noted down from the podcast!

As a super fan, myself and two friends are going to see a Live version of the podcast in Manchester in July, I know I’ll be coming back buzzing and I’ll be telling you all about it afterwards.

So, that’s all for this week, whilst I wade through current struggles and emerge hopefully more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed next week.

There’s always light out of the dark times yes? Just like the beautiful sunset above, captured by my husband as he climbed the 3rd mountain, Snowdon on his National 3 peaks challenge last weekend!

Hope you all have a creatively inspiring and enlightening week!

Until the next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

What’s wowed you lately?

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

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

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

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

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

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Image taken from –  the documentary Sensitive – The Untold Story

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

TT Fans forever!:-)

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

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

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

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

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

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

One lady put it really well;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

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

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

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

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

Sometimes, doing nothing, is just what you need…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll let you know how I get on!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

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

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

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

 

 

Collaborating to spread the joy of Creativity

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

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

Her bio reads:

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

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

A woman after my own heart right?

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week and until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Why creativity is crucial for mental health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take this information provided by forbes.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

  • Self-Value

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

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

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

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

  • Business Values

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

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  • Value my time

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

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

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

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  • Value my support efforts

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

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

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

  • Add Value to people’s lives

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

  • Value like-minded people, your inner community

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

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

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

  • Value Family Time

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

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When they were so cute and actually liked each other!

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Barley!!

  • Value the Planet

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

  • Value Money

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

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

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

  • Finally, Value your health!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week and until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x