finding creative inspiration

When I was at school, I participated in art about as enthusiastically as I participated in sport – ie. not at all! How strange then to find myself, aged 52, working in the world of movement and exercise with a growing fascination in art and creativity. I come at both things from the perspective of wellness, because I think that movement and creativity are each closely linked with a sense of well-being, promoting physical and mental health.

Maybe both things were always destined for me, and it just took me all this time to realise it?! But now that I have, I think that for me a key part of 2019 will be about finding creative inspiration…

This week I have made a start & have felt a real surge of creative energy, which was sparked by a wonderful writing workshop on Wednesday afternoon. Although I like to write I was nervous, not knowing what to expect from the session lead by Hilary Wilce at Smallhythe Studio. I needn’t have worried – it was the most supportive, uplifting and joyful way to spend two hours and I smiled gently to myself all the way home. I feel like it has stirred something in my soul and opened my eyes to see differently. It was truly inspirational and an unexpected joy. I will definitely go to more writing workshops and wholeheartedly recommend the process of using writing prompts and short time-frames (eg. five minutes) to get your thoughts on paper.

reading, writing and purple ink

When I got home after the writing workshop, I picked up my Christmas present to myself which I had only flicked through previously. It is a beautiful book called ‘Conscious Creativity’ by Philippa Stanton. I had seen it on Instagram (a source of much inspiration for me given that I love photography, even if it is only iPhonography) and bought it mostly because it is a visually stunning book. One of the things I love is that the author leads you to explore your own creative vibe through a series of questions and prompts and then some exercises* to work through at your own pace. You can dip in and out or follow along with each chapter, which is where I’ve started because I feel like a bit of structure is good for me right now. If you’re interested in exploring your creative side in 2019, this is a great place to start.

Still feeling creatively stirred when I woke up today, I followed up a recommendation that a friend gave me a few weeks ago. She had just started Mission: Inspiration with Mike Deakin – a series of monthly art journal challenges delivered via You Tube, his facebook group and his vlog. I woke up early and sat in bed watching his first ‘story’ for January, which, for someone who has never dabbled in mixed media art (but would love to know more about it), was totally mesmerising! I have no natural feel for this kind of art but watching someone create in this way was mind-blowing for me. I’m not expecting my creation to blow anyone’s mind but I will be getting out some glue and paper this weekend for sure!

So how about you – what do you do to feed your creative soul? Does creativity play an important role in your life? How does it make you feel?

I’d love to know what inspires you and any creative types that you follow – please share.

* And also I’d love to know any music suggestions you’d like to offer, partly because one of my ‘Conscious Creativity’ exercises is to listen to some music recommended by a friend. There is another reason for the music too, but I’ll share that at a later date…

Wishing you a joyful, creative week Jx

onwards & upwards

As a general rule, I don’t tend to label days or weeks as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but last week really was a BAD week, and so this week has been about moving onwards & upwards.

Or as a friend often says in such moments: ‘AVANTE!’

I had some (mental health) homework to do over the weekend which has been surprisingly helpful. The first part was to identify some key personal values; the second part was to find activities which support/match each of those values. For example, if one of my values was ‘feeling a sense of achievement’, completing a DIY task would be an activity which supports that value.

The idea behind the homework is to find a whole range of activities that support my values, so that I can spend more time doing those things (because they will help me to feel better) and less time doing mindless things (such as watching TV) which might be a  good distraction but which don’t contribute to a sense of well-being. To start with I was a bit flummoxed about my task, but once I gave it some thought it all became clearer and I have used it this week to help me feel more ‘me’.

I have also taken some inspiration from this gorgeous picture (by Lori Roberts) which is called ‘ABC of Life’ – I think it encapsulates all the things that matter to me (maybe apart from the voting?!):

ABC of life by Lori Roberts

So armed with my list and Lori’s art, I thought I’d share some of my wins from the past week:

  • a long walk on Saturday morning in the company of friends, followed by tea and cake at The Avocet Gallery in Rye Harbour got the weekend off to a really great start. The sunshine and stunning views made the early start very worthwhile. I walk everyday but really love to venture out for longer walks when I can – it works like a meditation for me I think. This week it will be Fairlight to Hastings, chips on the beach, and walk back again…
  • after-class drinks in the pub on Monday evening was a good start to the week – even though I don’t drink and I didn’t want cheesy chips, it was great to be in the company of those who do & did. Thank you lovely FP ladies x
  • I picked up my crochet hook (after a gap of 2 years) just to check I could still remember what to do (and I can!) ready to join a CAL (crochetalong) at Hoop in Tenterden on Saturday afternoon. I can’t wait to get started again – creating something (anything) is most definitely one of my key values – and I’ll be able to show what I made in 3 months’ time… [Do have a look at their website for details of upcoming events and workshops if you like to dabble with hook or (knitting) needle]
  • skiving off for an hour to pick damsons in the middle of a working day was a real feel-good moment – the sun was shining, buzzards were circling & calling overhead and there was no-one else around to compete for my bounty. I don’t often eat jam but I’m going to make it anyway to make use of my hedgerow harvest and add another tick to the ‘creating something’ activity list
  • bizarrely, and I never thought I’d say this, but I have even gained pleasure form starting on my tax return this week! Partly because it fits my ‘moving forward’ value but also because looking through the receipts has brought up many fond memories of planning & delivering my first retreat event this time last year. It’s odd that so much joy can be stored in an invoice, but I will definitely look for it every time I complete my tax return in future.

Rye Harbour

(Saturday morning in Rye Harbour)

It has surprised me how much a piece of homework which initially had me weeping (so much so that I literally kept turning the sheet of paper over so I didn’t have to look at it!!) has helped me to move beyond a difficult week and feel much more connected to myself again, and I haven’t been feeling that for quite a while. It’s just one step on a long road, but it feels great to make a start.

Obviously we all have our own unique set of values that keep us grounded. Maybe you already know what yours are or maybe my homework might help you too –

  • what are your key values?
  • what activities do you do to support them?

Onwards & upwards.

Avante!

change

2018 is proving to be a year of change. I have been feeling a real shift happening over the past few weeks and I am nervous, excited, anxious and interested in seeing where it will lead me all at the same time.

I guess it is not unexpected that my Mum’s death last December would change me, but it feels more than that. Inevitably there has been a huge shift in the family dynamic, with some pretty major stress along the way, but now that my body & mind are feeling nourished and stronger, I also feel that there is an adjustment within me on a deeper level, which is changing the way I think about my work & life.

In thinking about all the changes happening right now I have also been thinking about the resources I have used to help me at various times in the past. Aside from hiding my head in the sand sometimes (which is never really the best plan), here are four books I like and one habit that might be of interest to you too in times of change:

  1. If there is something in your world that needs to change, or just something which would feel better if you found a different way of looking at it, ‘Flip It’ by Michael Heppell gives some great insights into turning your head around
  2. If you need to get on top of tasks that feel onerous or daunting, try reading ‘Eat That Frog’ by Brian Tracy. The theory is that if you get the worst thing in your day done at the start of the day, you free up your energy to do everything else. If you have more than one frog to eat, you eat the biggest and ugliest one first! It doesn’t matter whether your frogs are work or life related, it all works the same way
  3. Things Are What You Make Of Them – Life Advice For Creatives’ by Adam J Kurtz is a great little book – really easy to read or flick through – full of simple suggestions which can be applied to any business or life situation. It’s also one of the prettiest books I own with rainbow coloured pages and hand-written notes, which are all presented on perforated pages so that you could, if you didn’t mind defacing the book, place them up around your house/workspace as daily prompts
  4. If you feel that you need a ‘life-bible’ have a look at ‘The Life Book’ by Nina Grunfeld. It focuses on different aspects of life (for example: health, creativity, work, family, money, etc, etc) and provides exercises and ideas for working on the areas that are most relevant to you. It’s another book that is good for dipping into when the need arises. It is thought-provoking, also quite pretty, and packed full of proverbs such as: ‘gratitude is the heart’s memory’ which I kind of like
  5. A habit that I have adopted recently is setting myself a daily task list with each item on the list numbered from 1 to 3 as follows: 1 = needs to be done today; 2 = hope to get it done today; 3 = can be done any time this week. On Thursday, for the first time, I completed all my 1 & 2 tasks which gave me a real sense of having made progress, and all the 3s got carried on to my next task list ready for action at a later stage. There’s nothing new about task lists of course, but the numbering has really helped me to keep focus – thanks to Jenny Burrell for this one

I’ll leave you with a few ‘change’ quotes just in case you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed or in need of a nudge:

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading” Lao Tzu

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been” George Eliot

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection” Mark Twain

And of course, the best change quote ever!

Jx

what’s your ‘entering the ring’ song?

I recently found my ‘entering the ring’ song thanks to Jenny Burrell

The idea of the song is to find a track that is uplifting to your ears, that stirs your soul, that lights you up, so that when you play it you are instantly in your zone, fired up and focused on whatever it is that you need to get done. Preferably you play it through headphones (to cut out other distractions) and play it on repeat for as long as you need to.

Now I am a lover of silence. I am not a player of background noise/radio/TV/anything – I like to hear NOTHING. But, given that I trust Jenny at least 100% I decided I should try to find my ‘entering the ring’ song, and I did, and actually it’s AMAZING!!

It took me a while because I like music to soothe rather than music to stir but after a few false starts I remembered a track from the film Gladiator, which was one of my favourite Body Pump cool-down tracks from another lifetime. So I found it, and it’s been on repeat every time I’ve been at my desk since, and sometimes in the car as well, and I’m feeling super-focused and getting loads of stuff done…

Here’s my ‘entering the ring’ song.

What’s yours? Please share.

(PS once you’ve found your song, you don’t have to play it all the time you’re working – its job is just to get you started – but bizarrely, I’m finding that keeping it on repeat creates a sense of order because there’s nothing unexpected, so I don’t need to take any notice of it, leaving my brain free to focus on what I’m doing. I never thought I’d be listening to noise while working!)