Tag Archives: Creativity

One sentence inspiration.

Don’t forget that life is filled with wonder.

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Procrastination, or creative thinking?

Have you ever thought about the difference between procrastination and creative thinking in your life? Procrastination is when you know you need to do something but keep coming up with excuses to put it off. I’m sure we’ve all been there! Some of us may even spend most of our time there, which surely can’t be too good in the practical day to day things of life.

However, if you are a creative person, then maybe at some point in your life you’ve been labelled or have labelled yourself as ‘lazy’. But is this actually the case?

Think of a project you’ve been working on for a long time, something that requires thought, focus, commitment, insight. Maybe you’re a painter, a sculptor, a musician / composer, working on a photography project, or like me, a writer. Has there been something that you have had as an on-going creative venture, that is very important to you, but that somehow you keep ‘stop-starting’ and yet with no intention of giving up?

Maybe you are overly critical of yourself about this. In a world that is fast-paced, filled with deadlines, and timelines, it can be difficult to see the positives in letting things rest for a while. Obviously,  if you are working to external deadlines such as writing for a publisher / book deal, preparing for an exhibition with a set date, or working on a commissioned piece of art, then you may in fact be procrastinating if you are putting off what you know needs to be done.

But what if you are solely creating something with no other demands imposed other than it is something you feel you need to do and to express? I have been working on a novel for ten years, and it involves a lot of personal reflection, as well as progressing on my journey of processing and healing past experiences and present realities. I used to think, when I was younger, that I would have written my book by such and such an age. Is it failure that I haven’t? Or is it woven within the fabric of this ‘life’s work’ itself? Isn’t it the case that something coming from the deepest parts of me to find expression and life as I continue to learn and make sense of things needs and in fact deserves time?

When I am not working on my novel, which can be for months on end (I could look at this as because I am busy with other commitments, need longer focused periods of time, etc.) the creative process is still happening. It hasn’t stopped just because there is a pause in the writing, just as your creative process maybe continuing even when for a time you have put down your pen, pencil, paintbrush, composition notebook, camera, sculpting tools, musical instrument, or whatever it may be for you. During the ‘fallow’ periods of ‘not writing’ my novel, I still continue to write in other ways that require less focus and emotional and psychological investment which can actually be a relief from the difficulty and intensity of expressing in art personal pain and growth. My mind continues to process and ‘sift’ through experiences, gaining insight as I continue on my life path, and perhaps subconsciously working out ‘solutions’ to yet to be answered questions in my novel itself. I learn new things from my experiences, from people around me, from reading, and gain insight, inspiration and new ideas even when I am not working specifically on my creative project. And when I come back to it, I realise that I hadn’t actually ‘left’ it. Just as in music, those moments of silence, of pause, of reflection can be profound and imbued with power and meaning and emotion, so too can the times of rest in our creative journey.

Can you relate? Maybe if you are in a similar position and if it is the case that you are giving yourself a hard time over not investing time in something so important to you creatively, you could instead consider all of the many ways that the rest and silence is not in fact laziness or procrastination but a form of growth, insight, of learning, and exploring other people’s creativity, or reflecting upon and sifting through your own inner journey so that when you do once more give yourself to your creative work, things are more focused, have a greater depth, authenticity and sharpness to them.

It’s just a thought that I’ve come to realise gives me greater freedom from self-imposed expectations on my creative journey. What about you? Would love to hear your thoughts and insights into your own creative processes.

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Set a new (small) goal – inspiration and a list of ideas! :)

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We need to keep growing and changing and improving in order to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Otherwise, the tendency is to stagnate, to get ‘stuck in a rut’, and become bored, apathetic or disillusioned with our lives. To be alive is an incredible gift, can we really afford to take it for granted by just trundling through our days? I don’t think anyone of us wants to do that.

Goal setting, and taking on new challenges is a good way to move onwards and upwards and helps us to live more intentionally, more fully and deeply. However, it can be quite daunting to consider setting goals, we might think we need to do ‘big’ things, make grand gestures, take great leaps forward. Yet small goals can also play an important part in rekindling our curiosity, our creativity and ‘spark’. These small goals can be so small that we don’t even consider them anything out of the ordinary, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a place in engaging our minds, our interest and our skills. By giving ourselves the chance to ‘step up’ and step forwards, without the pressure of having to do any grand things, we give ourselves the permission to set in motion the momentum that will continue to take us forwards. One small goal accomplished might well spark the motivation and inspiration to take on something new until those wonderful, creative, inspiring and well lived moments add up to an engaging and well lived, inspiring life. These little actions don’t even need to be something new, we can do things we’ve done before, but that we’ve drifted from, and so bring back a fresh dose of that creativity and engagement with our own lives.

So what might be on your ‘list’ for intentionally setting a small goal? And how might these things add up to other opportunities and new or deepening connections with other people?

I’m going to give it a go to come up with something for myself just now, and hopefully spark some inspiration for us both. Happy planning! 🙂

  • Go to see a fireworks display with a friend (already in the diary! 🙂 ).
  • Finish listening to the audio book I started.
  • Catch up with friends over dinner, and get to know new people that my friends invite.
  • I recently went to a pottery painting place and told my friends about it. One of my friends wants to go with me, and to bring a friend along who I don’t really know but have met once, a person who is very creative but in different ways from me. Who knows what opportunities of a happy, relaxing time with good conversation, creativity and inspiration, with potentially the seeds of a new friendship, might come our ways?
  • Plan some small craft projects and make personalised gifts for friends.
  • Write a new blog post.
  • Print out photographs from this year to make an album of memories to look back on, and maybe do some creative things with them like scrapbooking, personalised Christmas photo gifts for friends, or putting them on my wall to make me smile when I remember the good times.
  • Plan or get involved with a charitable event for Christmas such as the Christmas ‘shoe box’ appeals, food ‘advent calendars’ to collect items each day for homeless people or others in need.
  • Write a thank you card and send it to someone to show that they are appreciated.
  • Learn a new song on the violin.
  • Try out another new type of craft.
  • Do a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Arrange a ‘games night’ and bring some friends together for a relaxed and cosy evening, which might give an opportunity to invite people who don’t yet know each other but who might ‘gel’ as friends and extend our friendship group, potentially leading to new fun times and adventures in the future. All of our friendships had to start somewhere, right?
  • Tidy a small area of that room I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. Maybe this will lead to a bigger home project in due course, or lots of little efforts adding up over time can lead to decluttering, reorganising and refreshing that ‘problem space’ or area in the home.
  • Make time to read that book that I’ve somehow forgotten about.
  • Have 15 minutes of creative writing time.
  • Have a ‘colouring in’, arts and crafts afternoon.
  • Visit family.
  • Learn a new recipe.
  • Cook something to share with a friend at work.
  • Find out about a topic that I don’t know too much about at the moment and educate myself in new things.
  • Set aside time to exercise.
  • Set aside time to read some of the amazing blog posts from other bloggers out there! 🙂
  • Plan a ‘random act of kindness’ for someone.
  • Get creative with expressions of gratitude. Journal, scrapbook, write out letters, prayers, or draw a ‘gratitude tree’ and fill in new ‘leaves’ every time I want to write down something I’m thankful for and appreciative of.
  • Think of 5 people I want to encourage and / or compliment and make the time and effort to sincerely encourage them.
  • Have a film night by myself.
  • Go out for lunch with a friend and catch up.
  • Think of things I’d like to do as Christmas approaches.
  • Plan out an outfit for work.
  • Visit someone I haven’t seen for a while.
  • Start taking a small notebook around with me to ‘doodle’ in, draw and write down inspiring thoughts and ideas, or interesting observations.
  • Have a ‘musical’ afternoon with other friends who play instruments.

So there are a few things off the top of my head to help get us started. The lovely thing with little goals is that they take the pressure off us from feeling we need to take great big steps or even leaps forwards in our lives in order to make a positive change. They also, by nature being something more attainable and achievable that we can fit into our everyday lives and also include other people in, can lead to the introduction of new and special elements into our lives. For example, by trying out something new in doing the pottery painting earlier this month (which is reasonably priced and affordable), I have ignited interest with friends, and this could lead to a regular creative part of our lives where maybe once a month or every couple of months we can get together at this pottery place and be creative, chat, and bring along friends who the others may not yet know, thereby increasing and deepening our connections and bringing value to all of our lives.

Who knows what amazing things can result from the ‘smallest’ of actions, or the littlest of goals set and acted upon? 🙂

So over to you….what little goal are you going to aim for?

Pots and Paints!

This post will be a little lighter, brighter and more colourful than my previous post today (which was a little bit ‘heavy’).

Recently I tried some pottery painting with my lovely mum. I have to wait a few more days to collect the finished pieces as they have gone into a kiln and will come out all glazed, bright, shiny and new!

Here is a sneak peek – the colours will be much more vivid once the pieces are finally ready.

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Communicate like a diplomat to avoid the proverbial iceberg!

So, you see, I’m in this situation at work, and perhaps you have experienced similar situations yourself, where I’m working in collaboration to take forward an innovative idea (or at least innovative for a technically slow moving local authority). Basically, this involves creating our first ever company podcast for internal communications. It’s a great idea, and the people involved are energised, and I’m one of the key people in this work. However, the person whose idea it was is about to hit an iceberg, and his team are afraid to tell him that, so diplomatically I have to politely (and perhaps quietly) sound the alarm bells. The draft intro to the podcast (can you call it a draft if it relates to audio? I’m not sure 🙂 ) is, let’s just say, not to everyone’s tastes, it is probably not to most people’s tastes, certainly not to the tastes of Senior Management, and it is at odds with the company culture. My colleagues have thanked me for politely expressing written feedback when requested, and I made sure to remember that I am giving the feedback to a person, and as such, open and close with positives, and be constructive in any observations that may seem to take the form of ‘criticism’. Privately other members of the team have thanked me for the feedback which they felt was ‘spot on’, which they themselves are too afraid and reluctant to give to avoid the repercussions that might ensue. However, the greater risk of avoiding the issue for fear of offending someone and experiencing an uncomfortable team dynamic is that by not raising those alarm bells, you allow that person to steer their way straight into an iceberg and face criticism and ridicule from a far larger group of people once it is ‘out there’.

So what can we do? I think it’s important to remember that we all have blindspots, and we all need to look out for each other. We do need to ring that alarm bell when we see the iceberg approaching, but in a work environment, we sometimes need to ring the alarm bell politely, quietly and diplomatically for it to be effective, as ludicrous as this analogy might sound.

While other colleagues may know, and say to you that so and so’s idea or execution of that idea is terrible, and all are too afraid to say anything, you can’t let them hit the rocks. Be diplomatic, be kind, and be sensitive. Try to understand both your and their communication styles and take time to consider how to address these issues, while providing suggestions of an alternative approach. This may take time, but don’t give up, and ‘listen’ to what is not being said, as well as what is (a person’s tone, body language and ‘vibe’ can say a lot so take it on board but without jumping to conclusions) and pay attention to how things are affecting the team dynamic, and know when to take a step back.

Easier said than done, right? I know, but at the end of the day the diplomat in you might just save your colleague, team and team’s reputation from crashing into an iceberg and sinking into the bottom of the sea!

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Variety is the Spice of Life -give yourself the gift of a new challenge….

Life as it happens to be, just now, seems to be opening up doors of new opportunities to me. Little by little, things that make for my health and wellbeing seem to be falling into place, and I am grateful. After many tough times with my health, including panic attacks at work, and after several meetings, assessments, and recommendations for reasonable adjustments, I have been moved out from the open floor into a little corner room by myself, with big glass windows, and a view of trees and sky, and the main road. Today it is a rare bright and sunny day, and I am sitting at lunchtime in my little sunny spot, and for the first time in a long time at work, my brain, my nervous system, and all that has been distressed, is being given some relief and a chance to heal, recover, and grow stronger. And at this time new work projects and creative ventures are opening up to me at work and I am finding myself feeling not only ‘safer’ but more engaged, interested and happier in the challenge.

I don’t know about you, but it can be all too easy to get ‘stuck in a rut’ whether in work, in our personal lives, with how we spend our ‘down time’, and sometimes it feels like we are just dragging ourselves through our days, feeling bored and uninspired. It’s not a great place to be. Sometimes we just have to ‘do what we have to do’ to keep things ticking over, and we may not be able to change much about a situation we are in other than our thoughts, attitudes and perspective towards it. However, as important as it is to do that ‘inner ground work’ to encourage ourselves to be positive, perhaps we are allowing ourselves to believe that we can’t make a change. That things have always been done a certain way and so we just do the expected to fit in with the ‘tried and tested’ rather than challenging ourselves and others with the possibilities to innovate.

One of the projects I am embarking upon at the moment comes from the innovative idea of a colleague to introduce something new into our organisation that hasn’t been done before. They were met with an initial ‘resistance’ as their proposal is unfamiliar territory to management who are perhaps a bit more ‘old school’ in their thinking. I was asked to conduct some research into whether and why this would be a good idea for the organisation, providing the formal backing and facts and figures to validate this great idea from my colleague – the paper is going straight to senior management having been received well at a lower level, and now I am getting the chance to be part of the creative team to design, produce and implement this new idea, a team which I’ve wanted to be part of for a long while now, because I am both a very creative and analytical person, but need creativity in my life and a variety of outlets in order to thrive, and not just survive or go through the motions.

The reason I was asked to do this piece of work is because I volunteered to help out other teams – I asked my boss if I could broaden my skillset and because I am industrious, fast and efficient in providing a high quality of work for him, he knew there’s capacity for me to do more. Sure, there are no financial rewards that go along with this additional work, but there are the rewards of satisfaction of developing my skills, engaging my creativity and working with other inspired individuals – in a word, ‘fulfilment’. My boss therefore told a couple of fellow managers in two other teams that I was available to help out, and so the knock on effect has been new opportunities and connecting with other people with innovative ideas.

Sometimes we find ourselves wishing for a change, but not taking the first step to realise that maybe it is us that needs to do something about it. Change and new challenges or opportunities may not be handed to us on a plate, but we can take our inspiring ideas, and pitch them to the people with the power to make those changes. We might be knocked back, maybe at first, but at least we tried. So if you are looking for variety, more interesting challenges, and opportunities for creativity, maybe it is a gift you have to give yourself – in whatever area of your life – challenge yourself to create a new challenge, to ask new questions, and to break new ground – you may just find you really enjoy the opportunities that you yourself create! 🙂

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Fun and Easy Creative Writing Exercise

How would you like to try a simple and relatively easy creative writing exercise to get your writing flowing? I thought of this the other day, and had fun with it over the course of a Monday to Friday one week. It is really simple, the aim is to write a ‘Short shortstory’, yet it can really be any piece of prose. Don’t worry about the standard and quality of your writing if you think that doing so will inhibit you. You can come back to that later for editing or revision, or you can simply do the exercise in and for itself to fire up your imagination stations! 🙂

To write the ‘Short short-story’, which I have entitled “Windows”, I simply wrote a paragraph each day, Monday to Friday, and here’s what transpired. Maybe you will contemplate certain situations in your own life, or imagine something, and choose a topic or theme of your own so that you can try out this creative writing exercise. In the meantime, take a look if you like through some….

“WINDOWS” (c).

 

Monday:

Penelope gazed out of the window at the greying clouds. ‘What had happened to the blue skies and sunshine from earlier in the day?’ she wondered. Rain pitter-pattered on the glass and Penelope in unison drummed her fingers on her desk. It was another day in the office for Penelope, however, it had been far from another “ordinary” day. No, in fact, for Penelope it had been a very, very extraordinary day indeed!

Tuesday:

Tuesday morning blue skies and a drizzle of sunshine. Marcus and Lucy turned the sign that hung on the glass panelled door of their shop to let the world outside know that they were ‘OPEN’. Finally their hopes and dreams were falling into place. Closed was the door to their corporate lives in a world that they had now left behind. It was a brave move and one they had never anticipated taking when they first started out in their careers as young, ambitious, driven professionals. However, now childless and in their early forties, and with money in the bank, it was time for a new chapter. And as the door to the old closed, a window to new opportunities opened. First came the grand disembarkation from their fast-paced corporate lives, followed by a few months of travel, then focussed time setting up their long dreamed of business. Now the way was open, and Marcus and Lucy were more than ready for their new life and new adventures to begin.

Wednesday:

Peter tapped his biro against the clipboard, and gazed absentmindedly at his notes. He brushed back his unruly dark, yet speckled and greying hair from his face. The breeze from the slightly open window of his office rustled the bottom edges of his papers. He pressed his thumbs down upon the bottom edge of the uppermost page to keep the pages from lifting in the breeze. Despite the inconvenience, the breeze was welcome as Peter sat with the sun beating in upon him. The breeze served also as a reminder to him of how fortunate he was. He had opened the window a little earlier for the sake of the young lady who had sat in the room with him. His client. Her traumatic symptoms were resurfacing during their session, and the breeze from the open window served as a gentle reminder that she was here, drawing her back into the present. Peter jotted down some final observations before drawing a line under his work for the day. It was time to finalise his work, to pack up, close the window and finish for the day. As usual, he slowly, yet deliberately, left his wonderings and concerns about his clients firmly in the office before heading home to his young family, and his own happy life.

Thursday:

Trish sipped on her hot ginger tea, feeling calmed by the aroma and the warm and soothing sensation on her throat. She noticed a gentle hint of cinnamon too, softening the spice of the sweet ginger. Lisa returned to the table with her frothy topped coffee and sat opposite her friend. Together they leafed through the photograph album from Lisa’s recent wedding. A stylish lady following her tiny dog on its lead caught Trish’s eye. She was glad that Lisa had chosen a window-side table in the coffee shop. Trish felt less anxious sitting there, able periodically to glance away and watch the world go by, rather than sitting in the centre of the coffee shop, only to feel watched by the other customers there. It also served as a temporary mental and emotional “getaway” for her, as Lisa, caught up in her own enthusiasm and excitement of where her life was right now, absentmindedly, yet carelessly, disregarded her friends feelings as she celebrated her own.

Friday:

On Friday, Emily wore her favourite scarf to work. A gentle yellow, silky affair, with a light and tasteful scattering of gold sequins that sparkled and glistened when they caught and reflected the sunlight. For Emily, without any particular known reason, as far as she was aware at least, yellow was a colour she associated with Mondays. She wasn’t entirely sure why, as she didn’t feel particularly bright on a Monday, and never actually intentionally wore yellow on a Monday either. However, this Friday she felt drawn to wear this yellow scarf, and so she did. She hadn’t worn it for a long time, and it drew many compliments towards her that day. She enjoyed the simplicity of the happiness that it brought her as it sparkled in the sun streaming through the office window, catching the sequins and brightening her heart.


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