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.
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.
My son’s reaction to the beautiful sunset over Holme Moss last Summer (i.e it’s good!!)
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.
From gulls spotted over head on Miami Beach to the striking caterpillars of Yorkshire, I’m always on the look out!
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.
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
“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.
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.
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.
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!
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;
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
|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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?!
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!
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!!
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.
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!
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