Creative process

artYou know that feeling when you spot a book and just know it holds something precious inside for you? You might not even buy it at the time, but the thought comes back to you. The feeling hit me in the shop of the Victoria and Albert Museum several months ago. The book, with bright green cover and bold text, was Everyone is Creative by Michael Atavar. A few weeks later I could no longer ignore the call of the book and ordered a copy to be delivered to my home. I began reading immediately, pencil in hand, underlining the odd sentence, making notes in the back, nodding in recognition or agreement. It spoke to me, but not in the profound way I had an inkling it might. So I put it down. Left it for a while.

A few weeks on, I took the book sailing with me and dipped in once or twice before sleep. Then one night, sitting up in the cabin of the yacht, tears came. If I remember rightly, it was between pages 174 and 176. I felt understood, as I never had before for the art I made and for the pictures I took. If this man did a workshop, I wanted to go.

A few weeks later, and within days of having been asked by my mentor if I had ever been to an excellently facilitated workshop, the opportunity to take a 4-session evening class with the author at Tate Modern appeared in my inbox. Having had difficulty booking online, I called the Tate, debit card in hand and was informed that there were just two places left on the course. “I’ll take one.” I replied.

The evening of the first session came; November 3. Atavar opened with simple questions, swiftly followed by one to one work. With a stranger. Honesty; intimacy; observation. Not necessarily in that order. Saying what we saw in front of us in the moment, each for an uncomfortable two minutes. Two humans, face to face; trying to figure each other out, before the real conversation began. And when our time observing and sharing what we noticed was up; when we could talk freely, we admitted to putting up barriers. We shared how it felt just to say what came up and how there were things that felt OK and some that did not… but we ended up sharing those that did not in the end anyway. Two minutes speaking up had brought us close enough.

We were presented with tricks and mechanisms. This was the one… the workshop excellently facilitated both in big room and gallery… the one I had talked about with my mentor, but not experienced… until then. Connection amongst participants, the chance to share and the opportunity to open a little window onto the creative thoughts and ideas of others that usually remain internal; secret; hidden… to me, worth its weight in gold.

It was as much about words as images this first evening of Creative Process. It was about starting… no excuses, no time to waste, just starting with what you have available to you right now. Zooming in; zooming out. “Make things real in order to release them.” he said and those words stood out. I don’t have a problem making things real in my art, but getting words out of my head through my mouth can prove challenging. I now have a way to explore that. Being in the moment and speaking it out as I did with my stranger partner. Openers: I see… I feel… I notice…

What stood out in the days that followed was how I felt the urge to share the internal process of my own creativity. I take photographs on a regular basis, put them out into the world, but leave them open to interpretation more often than not. The urge came to share my creative triggers and not only the images this time, but their meaning… what they mean to me in the moment when I photograph them. In becoming aware of this urge, I also began to notice how simple things can be creative triggers for others.

When I walk to my local station, the image at the top of this post is the first thing I notice. At the end of the painted words, I see ART. Others may not and it was indeed years before I noticed this myself. Now, I can’t switch it off… the way you see a face in the swirls of an old fashioned carpet or one day spot that the wallpaper pattern doesn’t quite match up. It is the way my days out and about begin. They start with ART. Some days I chalk over the ART part. Others, I just smile and feel happy to have noticed.

Words. They are often my creative triggers. Words on the street or a word in my head. I chalk out words on the pavement… incomplete sentences that I hope others will finish off in silence or perhaps (though less likely) in a conversation. The same day that I took the photo above, I noticed how one simple word had become a creative trigger a tiny graffiti word: mouse.
danger-mouse
What was the image in the writer’s head when they read the word Danger and wrote the word mouse? Was it a visual image or just the word? And how does that little addition alter the way people read or see the sign… if they even notice?

I want to create my own triggers, either words or images. Yesterday, walking swiftly, down, down, down, instead of taking the lift at Russell Square station, the word in my head was fall as I tried my best not to. Fall; falling; I imagined a ball, racing and bouncing down the stairs and then the opener I fell… came into my head and I thought of so many different things those two words could trigger… thoughts of love or pain or both. All part of the creative process.

Care to share what came up for you when you saw these images or read this post? I would love to know. Please leave a comment in the box below.

Thank you!
With love, Julia x

 

 

 

On commitment

30dcThere is a quote I use in almost all of my online courses and I will share it with you here. You may have read or heard it before, and I may even have already shared it somewhere on this blog, but it contains the kind of information that should not be overlooked or forgotten. So, I am sharing it here, confident in my belief that these words of wisdom will touch someone who has read it before a little more deeply this time, or nudge someone who has not in the direction of their dreams.

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.’”

W. H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

These words move me each time I read them. They speak of fear and how holding back on our dreams does not serve us. They remind us not to extinguish the the fire of those dreams before the spark is even truly lit.

I know that feeling of anxiety… the feeling that means we don’t take that first vital step. I understand the feeling of anticipation when you do step forward, with no idea where the path will lead you. It takes courage to commit.

I have experienced first hand and also witnessed time after time how when we do take the leap of faith and commit to our dreams, let go of outcome and trust that everything will unfold as it is meant to that magic really does start happening. People appear; opportunities arise; things start changing… and not always in the ways you would ever have imagined.

The image above was created on the very first day I committed to my own creativity. The date was May 1, 2012 and after almost 20 years admiring and documenting the art of others as a hobby and in my work at an international art magazine, as well as curating exhibitions of other people’s work, I decided it was time to explore my own creativity. This was an expression of how it felt to embrace the unknown… to commit to my dream and see where it would take me.

This commitment was part of a 30 Day Challenge, the brainchild of bestselling author John Williams. I really had no idea where it would lead me. Now, two and a half years on, I have my own business, teaching art, running workshops and online courses and one of the most unexpected outcomes was that I now help other people follow their dreams. As a Genie on the 30 Day Challenge, it is my role and my pleasure to be present at that decisive moment on day one of the challenge when you truly commit. It is at this moment when your genius is let loose and the magic starts happening… though it may not become apparent for a little while longer, something most definitely shifts. If you have never before dared to voice your dream, let alone pursue it, now is the time. Summon up the courage to share it. Within the community of the 30 Day Challenge, people quickly make connections with fellow challengers who understand how it feels to take that first step and support them wholeheartedly. You find your voice and your tribe.

People in jobs they hate find or create a role they love in the same company. A play project that was meant to be ‘just’ a hobby catches the attention of the media and ends up on TV. Somebody starts the project they have always dreamed of and half way through finds out it is not all it was cracked up to be, but having tried it and let go of it, an even more amazing opportunity opens up in that space. Each of these things has happened on the 30 Day Challenge.

I was there… aged 41, having made very little of my own art in years, but knowing for sure that a commitment to my art was a commitment to myself and that if I didn’t do it then, I would regret it.

I will be there again on November 1, this time on the other side of the fence. Should you choose to take up the challenge, I will be there as you check in, wanting to know all about your passion and your project. I will be cheering you on with each forward step. And if you feel like you are falling or failing, come find me. I have been there, I get it.

What have you always wanted to do?
What’s holding you back?
No more excuses… it’s time for commitment.
Begin it… the rest will fall into place.

dream it

Playing games with nature

Conker naughts and crosses

Nature’s game of noughts and crosses

I sent out a little survey recently asking people who had taken my 21 Days of Creative Freedom course what else they would like me to share. One thing that came up and which is very close to my heart was a request for creative activities to do with children.

It can be hard, I know (as a Mum of two boys who love their gadgets), to get some children engaged in creative activities. Others will happily draw for hours, but I find that my boys really come alive and express their gorgeous, creative selves out of doors, surrounded by nature. It is where they feel freest and happiest. Me too!

The natural world provides so many things that we take for granted or appreciate for their beauty alone, but a walk in the park or along the beach offers a whole wealth of creative opportunities.

On holiday this Summer, small boy and I were sitting in full blazing sun on a pebbly beach. The big boys had ventured off exploring caves and after some time swimming and splashing about in the water, small boy and I were feeling the need for some shade. The only shady spot in view was an old bench under a tree. How would I keep him occupied there, I wondered. So, from the beach, I gathered four sticks and some stones: five shiny smooth and five rough and bumpy. On a beach towel on the bench beneath the tree, I lay the sticks across each other to make a grid and asked small boy to choose which pile of stones he wanted.

Our next half hour was spent playing noughts and crosses over and over again. I was smooth stones, he was bumpy. When the big boys arrived, we jumped into the tender with them and took the pieces of our improvised game back to the yacht where we continued playing.

Seeing the fallen conkers these past few weeks I have, on several occasions, set up an impromptu game in the park, using conkers instead of noughts and crosses, one player putting the conkers white side up, the other white side down (as above). Simple fun. Isn’t that so often the best?
They say the best things in life are free.
Conkers have been substitute balls, allowing us a spur of the moment game of piggy in the middle which raises much laughter due to the trickiness of catching a small flying conker. They have been used for throwing competitions, as have big sticks (big boy loves athletics, so this really make him grin). Small boy has sent conkers racing down slides as his friends scramble to catch them. Endless amusement.
What other games have you played with conkers and sticks? I am sure there are many other options.

Being out and about, living in the moment and aware of my surroundings leads me to point out the simple things to my children. They, in return, show me nature’s magic through their eyes. We like to notice how nature makes its own art. At the beach, it was snail trails through rock pools; on the street, slug or snail trails caught our eyes and looked like nature’s works of abstract art decorating the pavement.

Nature's abstract art

Nature’s abstract art

I have written here on several occasions of the images I have made out of doors from sticks and stones in the woods and what the water has washed up on the beach, so I won’t repeat myself, but if you’re stuck for something to do this weekend, my advice would be this…
Go out… explore.
Lead the way sometimes and let your children lead you.
Point out the details you notice and encourage them to show you the simple everyday magic that they see the world.
Draw with sticks in the mud and come home messy.
I will never forget a little girl in my art club telling me, “my mum doesn’t mind if I get dirty as she knows it means I’ve been having fun”!
Life isn’t supposed to be neat and tidy all the time… especially creativity.

Do share what you get up to this weekend in the comments below… I would love to hear about your creative adventures in nature.

Welcome Autumn

welcome autumnThe weather might still be warm, but the crunch of crisp leaves underfoot stamps out any doubt that Autumn is on its way. How does this time of year make you feel?
It makes me feel like nesting and snuggling up in a ball, but I also want to get out and experience it all.

?I love to witness the changes of season… what starts as a subtle shift in colour… the odd dash of orange around the edges, soon transforms into carpets of gold. Then it rains and the crackle turns to squelch and I start making soups and gathering sticks for marshmallows. I take pleasure in noticing the details.

leafOn Monday, I took time… just a few minutes, but time enough to admire the simple joys of the shifting seasons and to highlight them for passers-by who may have forgotten to stop and look. A simple leaf was my inspiration… fallen in the midst of transformation… part orange, part gold, part green. The shadows too, inspired me.

shadow1 shadow2I found myself noticing shapes I had not previously seen. I drew around them and watched in wonder as what I had co-created with the shadows become something different with the assistance of the slow-moving sun.

How does this time of year inspire you?
What will you co-create with nature?

The writers’ blog-hop

artLast Monday, I posted an artists’ blog-hop post on this site, having been invited to answer four questions about my creative process. This week, writing is the theme of the blog-hop. I thought twice about doing both as I did not want to be repeating myself, but as my art and my writing go hand in hand, I felt that it was worth participating and sharing with you a little more about my writing.

This particular blog hop baton is being picked up somewhat belatedly as it was way back on the far side of the Summer holidays that Lynsey Whitehouse of ThinkDrawLive.com invited me to join in this post. Since then, Lynsey has launched the Brainy Girls Guide to Business which is now her focus. I will introduce my own nominations at the end of the article, but for now… it’s question time!

What am I working on?
I have just offered my first eBook up for sale on a Pay What You Want basis and I am now working on a couple of other books, both directly related to art. I am slowly finding new ways of sharing my writing and my art and have recently been invited to share my story on a number of blogs, so it is interesting to be writing for an audience outside of the safe haven of my own list and blog, unsure of who the audience is. On a personal note, I always write for myself. Getting the thoughts out of my head and onto paper is an ongoing process.

How does my work differ from others in this genre?
I struggle to answer this question. In pondering my answer, I posted a question on Facebook and it was pointed out to me by a friend that we are put in genres because of our similarities. Each of us brings to our writing, or our art, our own very personal interpretation of the world based on the unique way in which we experience it.
Some artists resist sharing their methods and their inspiration as there is a desire to retain a sense of mystery and for people to interpret their works freely. I have no problem writing about my processes and learnings. I also embrace imperfection and feel it is more important to share something than to wait until you have something perfect to share.

Why do I write what I do?
Writing, like art, comes naturally to me. I have always used words as an outlet. Writing helps me process my thoughts and in sharing my experiences I find that new learnings, realisations and insights come through. Sharing my creative journey on my blog, both in words and images has enabled me to connect with a large circle of creative women worldwide. Like many mothers, I feel I lost myself for a while in the process of bringing children and focusing on their needs. Writing about my experiences and sharing my journey has been a powerful piece in the puzzle of finding myself again. Finding my voice as a writer and artist has allowed me to publicly engage in the process of reconnection, both to my creative soul and to others on a similar path. I hope that in writing what I do and sharing it, I will inspire others.

How does my writing process work?
There are two ways in which my writing process works. The first takes the form of a headspill. I usually write everything I am thinking and feeling out in one long monologue, often as a draft email, as though I was writing a letter to someone. If I am on the hop, I let spill into my notebook or phone. I find this process enormously cathartic and it allows me to release a great deal of mental clutter. Occasionally, a small amount of a headspill will make its way into a blog post, but usually this part of my writing process is used purely for cleansing purposes.

The second way in which my writing process works is as a long, slow period of writing, reflecting and adapting. The Gratitude Daily eBook is the culmination of 18 months work from the initial idea to the creation of a course, the running of that course, then adapting it in the light of feedback from participants and my own experience and finally transforming it into book format. I like to write and edit and then take a step back. I find that in stepping away from a writing project for a while, be it for a few hours (for a blog post) or a few days (a full article or bigger project) and looking at it through fresh eyes, I gain the distance and perspective necessary to create something of substance.

Having answered these questions myself, I am now passing the blog baton on to two good friends of mine…

SheelahFirst up is Sheelah Turner. Sheelah is an adventurer, explorer and story-teller. After departing the UK in late 2012, she and her husband spent 15 months camping their way across Africa, sharing their adventure on their blog www.kapp2cape-blog.net as they went. After the trip finished, their love of exploring new cultures and experiencing new countries has led them to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates. Sheelah is now launching a new blog Our Life … Lived! to continue sharing her musings and observations of the world around her.

eveEve Menezes Cunningham is a freelance psychology, health and wellbeing journalist. She writes articles and advice columns supporting people in helping themselves. Eve also runs the Feel Better Every Day Consultancy, offering holistic therapies for your mind, body, heart and soul.
You can find her blog at feelbettereveryday.wordpress.com


Over to you ladies…

Inspiration exists

trio“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
Pablo Picasso

Tomorrow is the back to school; the return to routine, and I have to say, I am quite looking forward to it. I find freedom in constraint.

Our Summer has been an amazingly varied one. I started by gaining my Competent Crew certificate on the solent, then heading off to sail the Ionian Sea with my love and the boys. The stunning views of distant islands from the yacht would have been the perfect exercise in limited colour palette (but those images will have to wait for another post as the photos are still stuck on the phone). But I made very little art this holiday. Knowing that quiet time alone would be in short supply, I chose not to frustrate myself with the intention to create at home, though on picnics in places where I knew the boys could run free, I took pastels and paper just in case and was rewarded on a couple of occasions. Enough solo space, bum on rug as kids ran and played, allowed me to do a few drawings. A last minute trip to Cornwall for a couple of days meant an unexpected visit to Tate St. Ives and to the even more delightful Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. The five hour journey there and back would have been worth if for that place alone. Meantime, the ideas were brewing.

This weekend, kids with Dad, I allowed myself to get going. On Friday night, I covered the table with newspaper, donned my dirty jeans and painting shirt and the canvas and acrylics came out. Having had countless ideas and images in my head over the six weeks of school holidays, I didn’t think I would find it difficult to make something I was happy with. How wrong I was. Before long, the frustration was mounting. I painted; painted over; tried something new; gave up. Paint was not working. In giving up on my painting, I did not give up on art, but rummaged through my art drawer for some charcoal. I found my big A2 drawing pad and started, this time with nothing in mind than to draw whatever flowed. The three charcoal drawings above were what came in the space of an hour or so. The outside light was on for some reason, so glimpsing the leaves lit through the window must have inspired me (but it was not until the following day that I realised the works must also have been influenced by my visit, earlier in the week to The Inner Self: Drawings from the Subconscious and represented, in some way, the unspoken words that had been forming in my head recently). I spent a little while in the garden too… shadows fell on the paper as I rested it on the ground and the inspiration grew stronger. I could have worked all night. Strangely (and unlike me when in flow) I chose not to. Instead, I chose bed and rose ready to begin again in the morning, working in pastels this time. I did one piece I was happy with then rested and turned to writing.

All Summer long I had intended to go visit the Matisse Cut Outs exhibition at Tate Modern, but for some reason (or many) had not managed it. Due to the popularity of the show, the Tate stayed open all night Saturday and into Sunday, so this morning, I caught the early train to London Bridge. My mission was to top up the inspiration tanks at the show. I had playbook and pens at the ready and was not disappointed. The elegant simplicity of the works astounded me. One of the pieces that moved me most was Oceania, The Sky as, with my fondness for brown packaging paper, I was able to envisage ways of creating a piece directly inspired, but quite different. Each room gave me new ideas for projects.

Next, I followed Ben Wilson’s chewing gum trail across the Millennium Bridge and chose to walk all the way to my next destination on the North (instead of my usual fave) South Bank. Again, inspiration was leaping out at me everywhere. I took photos, made notes and absorbed everything. Nothing like a stroll in the city to get the creative juices flowing. Time sat alone in busy places with notebook and pen allows me to consolidate things and if accompanied by good food in an atmospheric café all the better. I got lucky, filling several pages over porridge and chai at Dishoom. Once again, inspiration found me working.

The trick now is to turn that inspiration into something more concrete and this is often the point at which I resist. Fear kicks in and I kid myself that inspiration itself is enough. It is not. That is why I halted this blog post right there at the last full stop to go make something. You can see the result (white paper on brown manilla envelope with room for address on the left hand side) at the bottom of this post.
Today’s outing was a deliberate inspiration-seeking adventure. I went armed with supplies to work on my art and my ideas. The run-up to the day was filled with art-making and not, as I have explained, of the straight forward kind. I could have given up when the painting was not flowing, but chose to push through in a different medium. Inspiration found me working and it will find you too, if you work at it.matisseIf you need a little kick-start on your own inspiration-seeking adventure, why not join me…? The first of my Inspiration Days are coming soon.
Book now to be ahead of the game!
I challenge you to come out and play… experience the city through the eyes of an artist…
I guarantee inspiration will find you.

The artists’ blog-hop

I was recently approached by a creative friend to take part in an artists’ blog-hop. The idea with a blog-hop is that you introduce the person who nominated you, write a post answering a few set questions, then hand over the blog baton to other artists. I will introduce my own nominations at the end of the post, but first, I would like to introduce Sam Dounis who nominated me for the blog-hop. Sam’s artistic talents take the form of cartoons of a mischievous sheep called Seamus, allowing her to combine her interest in drawing with her passion for story telling. Do take the time to check out Sam’s blog where you can smile at the adventures of Seamus, as well as reading about her lifestyle experiments.

Now, on to the questions…

How does my creative process work?
My creative process is a form of free-flowing self-expression. It is usually spontaneous and rarely involves any planning. I respond to my feelings; the weather; my environment and whatever else inspires me to put black marker to brown paper or to pick up my camera or to let loose with colours on canvas. My art covers a variety of media and I often work with whatever materials I have at hand. Whilst out and about, walking in the woods with my children, I often feel inspired to make art, so I gather sticks and stones and lay them out on the ground to form whatever image or shape I feel drawn to create and if I have my camera with me, I will use it to document this temporary art.

She

Lady of the wood, made in Cuffley Great Woods whilst walking with my children.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I often use words in my art. I like to chalk out messages in my local park or on the street or at the railway station. I do this to draw people’s attention to things they may not otherwise notice; to encourage them to be mindful and not to miss the magical details in everyday life… there are so many of them. There can be a lot of mystery in the processes of some people’s art, which is wonderful… I love to look at a work of art and mull over how on earth the artist could have done it, but with my own art, I want people to think, “I could have made that.” I strongly believe that engaging in creative activities enhances people’s lives, so I want to encourage everyone to give art a try. Art is visual self-expression. It can be incredibly therapeutic, but many people struggle to express what goes on in their inner-world; art is a way of liberating those things you cannot put into words.

lady

Body art made in a hotel room in Glasgow and photographed against the window.

What am I working on now?
I am busy spreading the word about my upcoming Inspiration Days, so this means sharing the art I am currently making and whatever turns me on creatively. The Inspiration Days are an opportunity for people to meet up, make friends and create art. My art changes day by day. It is always experimental and I allow myself total freedom. Last week, I started a new series of drawings mapping the clouds, drawing cloud formations out whilst gazing at the sky, not looking at the paper. This makes me feel both mindful and free. I examine the clouds carefully, but I do not try to create a likeness, I just use them as my starting point. Recent experiments have involved oil pastels on paper, smudged with kitchen oil. Previous experiments have been in animation.

Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because it’s too hard not to. Art is a part of who I am. It is something I have always (to a greater or lesser degree) done. Expressing myself creatively is vital to living a full and happy life. I share my art because I have witnessed, first hand, the transformative power of art and I would like to inspire people to give it a try. I teach art to children because I love their energy and they teach me so much. I make art with grown ups because I love to connect with others over art and to liberate people from the fears that have held them back and watch them blossom as they have the courage to experiment and become free to make art. In expressing yourself through art, you can discover your own voice and gain the confidence to speak up in other areas of your life.

Joy, acrylic on canvas, work in progress.

Joy, acrylic on canvas, work in progress.

So, having answered the questions myself, I am passing the blog baton on… to three artists friends who inspire me through their own creativity. They will post answers to the questions above on their own blogs next Monday, but please feel free to check out their creative output right now!

First up is Alice Sheridan. Alice appears as comfortable working in print or on canvas as in sketchbooks. Her mixed media landscapes, whilst varied in subject matter are always atmospheric. She shares her creative process and musings at www.creativetortoise.com

Morwhenna Woolcock likes to be known as The Creative Adventurer and what better title for one whose life is one creative experiment after another? Morwhenna is a glowing ball of creative energy. Her doodling experiment begins today and you can join her at www.morwhenna.com

Bernard Webb is a photographer with a rare talent. He is able, in a single photograph, to capture a whole range of emotions. His images convey nostalgia and melancholy; joy and possibility. Though largely inspired by landscape and architecture, his knack for portraiture and street photography cannot be denied. See his work at www.bjwphotography.net

Next week, I will be taking part in a writers’ blog-hop, so watch this space.

Life lessons I learned from sailing

rope Be Creative Daily started out as a way of documenting a 30 day commitment to my creativity some 30 months ago. One of the first things I learned to do early on was be more open about what being creative means to me and not just limit it to art. I apply creativity to my cooking; ways of looking; how I coil my ropes; my life. I am open to possibilities; to experimentation as a way of learning; to surprising twists and turns and as I have already shared here, this last month has seen be doing something I had never previously considered: sailing a yacht.

This week, I received my Competent Crew certificate, having spent 5 days in the Solent, learning the ropes. Prior to this adventure, I had only ever spent two nights on the water… a little taster a couple of weeks earlier to see how I liked it. Having enjoyed the sense of space out in the fields close to where I grew up and relishing the feeling of freedom that travel and new experiences offer, I loved it. It was way outside my comfort zone and I was constantly in fear of either myself (not a strong swimmer) or someone else (what if I panic and we can’t get them out quick enough) falling overboard; nobody did.

Rising with the sun and sneaking out early through the window in the cabin roof for coffee and breakfast before the others on the yacht woke up was such fun. Feeling the breeze through that window; watching the stars from my bed; listening to the clinking and lapping as I fell asleep was music to my ears, like a meditation. Days were spent checking the engine, learning new terms, tying and untying ropes, hopping on an off, standing at the helm, steering the boat, tacking and gybing and practicing manoeuvres and our man overboard routine (not with a real person, thank goodness, but stopping and turning the boat and hooking up a bucket and a fender). It was exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure. I slept well on the yacht!

I learned so much in those 5 days… about sailing and the weather, about life and myself. Here are some of the important life lessons that being out on the water taught or reminded me that I have already applied (or soon will) to my business:
1. It’s OK to mess up.
Step up, take action, get out there, make mistakes and learn from them. Being told by my love (an experienced sailor) before I went out for the first time that I should “go and make mistakes” gave me permission to **** up. Here’s your permission if you need it: go and make mistakes. You will likely learn much more from your mistakes than from the things you get right. Whilst at the helm one afternoon, when I really should have handed over a little earlier, I turned the boat way too far. Voices were raised, I scared myself, but I didn’t do it again. Ready to throw in the towel (and feeling really stupid), the instructor encouraged me to stay at the helm for the next manoeuvre. I got it right, regained my confidence and from then on, got better and better.
2. Step outside your comfort zone
I am not a strong swimmer. I feel sick on a ferry if the sea is a little choppy. I had no clue who I would be sharing the yacht with for two days that first time I tried sailing. I was stepping way outside my comfort zone on many levels. It was a steep learning curve, but I soon became comfortable with it and was ready for the next challenge. If you keep stepping outside your comfort and meeting new challenges your world will expand and you will achieve much more.
3. Allow the tide to assist you
Finding your flow and going with it, you will get to your destination much quicker. When we tried to move against the tide, even with the wind on our side, we got nowhere fast. Find your flow and use it to propel you forwards. Don’t fight what’s easy… use it to benefit you.
4. Enjoy the gift of the present.
I love taking photos, but on day one on the water, my camera broke. I felt lost, unable to capture the memories in the way that feels natural. After my initial frustration subsided and I gave in to the fact that I could not record what I was seeing in my usual way, I allowed myself to sit back and take in the views and the details in a way I rarely do when armed with my camera. I began to take photos with my mind and even began drawing in my head. This meant that I was totally in the moment instead of looking at life through a lens. What also happened was that my desire to draw became even stronger than my desire to take photos. Allow yourself to be in the moment. Step back and observe and breathe it all in. Give yourself the space required for new things to open up for you.
5. Work with others
There is much to be learned and gained from working as a team. Everyone has different strengths and brings their own energy and experience. Observing two men with wildly different sailing backgrounds (one racing on tidal waters; one sailing in the Caribbean), but a common understanding of the yacht and the sea, working side by side, was like watching beautiful choreography. Find people with whom you share values and interests and work with them to mutual benefit.
6. Be open to everything
Just two months ago, I was standing on Yarmouth Pier with my love and my boys, watching a woman on a yacht sail by, wondering what it must feel like. Not for one moment did I imagine I would ever find out. Yet, two months later, it was me on the yacht, being watched by a family on Yarmouth Pier as we sailed into the harbour to moor up for the night. Anything can happen… remain open to possibilities.

sunsetPlease share below your own experience of putting these things into action as I am sure you already have. The more we share, the more we realise we are not alone.

Little British Things

littleThink of Little British Things and fish and chips and ice cream in cones and other simple delights spring to mind. On May 13, a wonderful, adventurous friend of mine, Diane Leigh, took off on a tour of Britain, by road, boat and rail in search of these things that make Britain so… well, so British. Along the way, she heard stories and told tales and sampled local delights as part of her 80 day Little British Things tour, during which she raised funds for the RNLI.

On July 14, we met up on the beach with a mission… a little meeting that had been planned (though very loosely, as in, “we must meet on the beach and make art”) for some time.

When you think of Britain’s beaches, it is unlikely that you will think of London (unless you are a regular visitor to the South Bank at low tide)… but when the water is out, the Thames has plenty of sand and all manner of scavengers’ delights… if only you know where to go. So, at 10.30am, we met up at the Royal Festival Hall and headed for the beach at the foot of the OXO Tower. Here, without a specific design in mind, we began gathering the raw materials to make our beach art. Driftwood and stones, shells and shoe soles, old brushes, bits of clay pipe, sea glass, a little plastic fish and some objects unknown were placed in piles ready to make a start.

collection“Let’s make a map”, Diane suggested, so we started setting out the pieces in the shape of Britain. The tide soon turned inwards and as the piece began to take shape, we sorted by colour and design and a plastic watering can came to represent a tea pot and fragments of weathered glass and worn plastic were placed in groups to mark sea and countryside.

cornwallIn the space of a couple of hours, our piece was almost complete and to finish it off, Diane scored the centre of the map with a fork we had found, leaving little lines along the land she had recently travelled, the shoe soles crossing the map as she had crossed the country. A couple came over, curious to find out what we were making and seemed keen to share their experiences of their own journeys as people who like to travel so often are. Then we walked up the stairs and we watched as a little boy strolled across our map from west coast to east coast and back again and we went for a sandwich, leaving the inbound waters to wash away our temporary art.

boyInspiration is everywhere… keep your eyes open wide.
Adventures can be yours… make up your mind.
Create something form nothing… be willing to try.

Diane set a target of raising £1000 for the RNLI by the end of her current adventure. Yesterday, donations exceeded that amount. Tomorrow is the final day of her tour, so if you would like to donate to the cause, click here to make a difference.

thank youLet me know what Little British Things means to you.
Share the adventures you dream of.
What would you make if we went to the beach together?