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

Call to action

The 30 Day Challenge is up and running and we are two days in. Projects are being announced and today intentions are being set. As a veteran of the 30DC (this is my 5th), I know the kind of magic that happens when you set your intention and follow your heart. What one thing could you do today that will take you a little closer to your bigger dream?

Magic happens when you commit to the dreams you have hidden.

Do you have a little dream inside you?
Is there something you long to do, but actually doing it makes you feel too way vulnerable?

For me, one of the many little dreams I kept hidden was very simple… to make art on a regular basis, free from fear. I did a little, now and then, here and there, but it never felt very serious; I never thought I was any good; it always felt half-hearted.

Commitment is a powerful thing.

In this book The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951, W. H. Murray writes,

‘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 favor all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their 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.
Begin it now!”‘

I have found this to be so true! On May 1, 2012, I finally committed to what was important to me: my art. Since then, everything has changed. Opportunities have presented themselves; I have met some of the most amazing people who have supported, inspired and been supported and inspired by my projects and I have made countless connections with so many creative souls who I would never had encountered had I not made the commitment to my creativity.

If you are a regular visitor to this site, you will have heard me tell the story time and again, but all that you see here… all of my creative adventures, from my own art to the art clubs and workshops and courses I am now running to encourage others to follow their creative hearts… all of these things are a result of committing to my own little dream. All of the things I have learned along the way I am now sharing with others and supporting them as they follow their own creative paths. And I love it!

Now, I am proud to say that I follow my heart, create art and make money from my passions. The more ideas I play out, the more ideas flow and the more I learn. It’s an ongoing journey. That’s not to say that it’s all easy, but then I like to be challenged and so I push my own boundaries and continue the cycle of following my heart, making my art, sharing what I learn, reflecting, adapting and playing it all out again, with a twist.

On June 1, I will be part of the team supporting over 200 people who are committing to their own little dreams and playing out the ideas that have been hidden for too long. John Williams, bestselling author of Screw Work Let’s Play, and my very own mentor and business guru, Judith Morgan, will be leading the next 30 Day Challenge, sharing a wealth of knowledge gained from years of experience as entrepreneurs themselves. I mention this to you because, for me, this was the catalyst. 30DC was the point at which I truly committed to my little dream and not only re-discovered the creative freedom I felt in my teens, but also found a way to turn my passion into profit. You can do it too! Sign up for the 30DC with the link below and you too could find a way to make money doing something you love. https://fo124.infusionsoft.com/go/30DC/Julia/
Speaking from experience, I totally believe in this process.

So go on… take a look and take the leap. Then come back here and tell me all about that little dream you have kept hidden, but are ready to commit to. Come on in… find your tribe. I’ve got your back… I did it and I know you can too.

With love,
Julia x

Living life as an adventure

It is 18 months since I started this blog and when I look back, I realise that so much has developed in that time. This particular adventure began on May 1, 2012 with a 30 Day Challenge when I committed to my creativity for one month and started documenting it here. Little did I know that this would lead me to teaching art to children, running workshops for adults, painting on the pavement outside my favourite Indian restaurant to celebrate Diwali and to this month sitting on the other side of the 30 Day Challenge fence as a Screw Work Let’s Play team member and 30DC Genie. I love shining my own light and carrying the torch for others and their talents, so this feels like the perfect role for me.

Following my own creative path and being open to whatever may unfold has really allowed me to enjoy life as an adventure this past year. At the start of the Summer, I exchanged my Tesco clubcard vouchers for a flight to Glasgow where I enjoyed an art-filled weekend in a city I had not visited for 20 years. Last week, I hopped on the Eurostar to attend an Outsider Art Fair at a Paris hotel and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the magazine Raw Vision at the Halle Saint Pierre where I co-curated an exhibition of British Outsider Art in 2008.

Giving myself permission to live life on my terms, embracing my creativity and allowing daily life to become an adventure is what it’s all about right now. It was this spirit of adventure that led me to having my hair cut in the street outside the Centre Pompidou by the Hair Cowboy last week… the same spirit of adventure which led me to write a love letter to Dishoom and to my collaborations with them… the same spirit of adventure that seeks out the people who inspire me and the places I love and leads me to connect these dots whenever I can. This past week alone, I have hopped on the back of a horse for the first time in 20+ years, created a giant self-portrait in the sand and strolled the streets of Paris in search of art.

Right now, it may not be bringing me riches, but I am living a much more fulfilled life. The next step of the mission is to encourage others to live a fulfilled and adventurous life created on their own terms too… Kickstart Your Creativity begins here at home tomorrow… let’s see what unfolds.

What one thing can you do today to make your life feel a little more adventure and less mundane?

With love,
Julia x

Kickstart Your Creativity

Collaborative artwork

Fresh wonders have been unfolding over here at Be Creative Daily as I started running a new course at home last Wednesday evening, called Kickstart Your Creativity. For one month, six courageous women have committed to spending two hours here each week, to embark on a creative journey. Art is being made, connections are being forged, dreams are being shared and I am filled with an enormous feeling of excitement and possibility.

At the moment, things are still in the early stages. The course has been (loosely) written and I am playing it out for the very first time with a group of local Mums, connected by a desire to welcome more creativity into their lives, as well as a need for connection and a wish for a feeling of community. My aim is to provide a space within which everyone can safely share, create and let go…
Let go of the desire for perfection
Let go of unrealistic expecations (that we often put upon ourselves)
Let go of shoulds and coulds and just play, like our children play, just as we did before we got caught up in our assumptions and became frozen by our fears.

How often do we have the chance in our busy lives to really let go…?
When do we have the opportunity to share our desires…?
How often to we get to explore what we really want for our lives and think about how we can take positive action to effect such change…?
How often are we even really listened to…?
But isn’t that exactly what we want for our children…? That they should play and explore the world without pressure and fears and that they should have the freedom to express themselves and their wishes without judgement or concern. Why then, would we not give that gift to ourselves? How can we lead by example?

These are some of the questions I seek to address as I use art-making exercises to explore each of these things. Last week, beautiful vision boards were created and tiny steps were taken towards living that fulfilling life. This week, we took pleasure in making imperfect pictures. We shared stories, made collaborative art, talked about the beauty of sharing and the power of asking for help. And next week another layer will be peeled… more fears will be faced, more experiences shared.

Travelling home, a little late yesterday, I waited alone at the station for my train. I watched carriage after carriage pull in and pass on. What struck me was the lack of interaction. What frightened me was the solitariness of each individual; the blank expressions; the empty stares and what I thought was how, in each moment on of our day, we pass up on the possibility of connection, be it as simple as eye contact with a stranger or a smile exchanged.

These strangers will be the ones I invite next… they will be the ones I welcome, should they accept the challenge, to kickstart their creativity. There is so much possibility and potential right there on one single busy commuter train. I will be delivering those invitations by hand, with a look in the eye and a smile.

If you feel that you are in a creative slumber from which you wish to awaken, this is your invitation, right here

Whilst on the subject of inspiration and positive change, I have something else I wish to share. Be Creative Daily began on May 1, 2012 with a simple commitment to a 30 Day Challenge. My personal challenge was to do something creative every day for 30 days and share it. So many things have resulted from that simple commitment… everything you see here in fact! Each art class and workshop, every group and creative connection is the result of making a commitment to my art. If you have something you have always wanted to do, a business you have been thinking of, an event you would like to run, there are few things you could do that would make more of an immediate impact than joining me and 200 other people all around the world as we commit to another 30 Day Challenge. Are you in? It can be life-changing.

With love,
Julia x

The breakthrough

Three days ago I wrote about The Slump… that dark moment, part-way in, when I question everything. Familiar with this heavy territory, I also acknowledged that “This is often the moment before the breakthroughs happen… when you ride the storm and come out the other side; brighter, stronger.” Last night I felt brighter and stronger than I have felt in a long time. The breakthrough came sooner than I thought.

On Thursday night, having raised my voice too loud, I was suffering from an anger hangover. The term references what Brené Brown calls “the vulnerability hangover”, a term that she coined when she needed a concept that captured that feeling of, “Oh my God! Why did I share that? What was I thinking?” My term “anger hangover” captures my feeling of, “Oh my God! Why did I just shout like that? What was I thinking?” It was one of those evenings when I was over-tired and going over old ground, asking nicely for things to be done to no response and being faced with yet another challenging episode of big boy picking on small boy, when the fuse blew. When all was finally quiet and boys were both in bed, I was still feeling the aftershock of being pushed to my limits and becoming a person I think (wish, hope against hope) I am not. I feel it in every inch of my body… the tension, the regret, the shrinking into myself, the desire to undo, the reality of what I become when I forget, for an instant, to discipline calmly or to walk away. It was eating me up and I had to get it out, so I turned to my art. I did not know where I was going, so I followed my instinct, went to the pen drawer and picked up the thickest, blackest pen I could find. It was how I was feeling. I rolled out a length of brown wrapping paper and taped it to the table. There is something about the shade and the texture of that paper that makes me feel happy and safe. It is comforting in a way that I cannot describe. I picked up a pencil, lay my head on the paper I traced my profile. It came naturally to me. I still had no idea what I was doing, just feeling my way. I traced another profile… my other side, making two faces staring blankly at each other. With the thick black marker I traced each profile. One appeared a little softer… the me I would like to be. The other I attacked with my pen, drawing in jagged lines, up and down, angry with sharp edges. I scribbled areas of black at the back of my neck where the tension lay and in my chest where I felt the embarrassing pain of the me I had been in that moment and the spikes and lines that came out from my throat were expressions of what I had done. It felt good, letting it all out. And when it was done, it was done. I had released the tension, expressed the feelings and the fear. 

I then turned my attention to the other face. I felt calmer; my edges softer and that came out in the pen, the fluid lines, the flowing, curling waves of the me I wanted to be. It was that simple. I was redressing the balance. I drew out the me I wanted to be and in doing so I became calmer in the moment.

Redressing the balance: how it was and how it should have been

Late Friday afternoon, I listened to an audio recording by Laura Hollick in which she explained how she had discovered a technique which had enabled her to heal her skin and grow in confidence; a technique which she herself had created, just by feeling her way and going deeply into her art. Hearing her describe the technique and listening as she shared this way of working, I realised that I had to share what I had done the previous night for myself. So, last night, when two friends arrived for my evening workshop, we first went through a few tried and tested techniques… playful ways to step out of your comfort zone and let go of the idea of making perfect art; ways to immerse yourself in the creative process and enjoy the pure pleasure of simply making art. And then, I took the leap of sharing what I had tried the night before. We traced our profiles onto paper and I asked each of my friends to think of something that was a challenge for them right now… to go deeply into that feeling and let it out on the paper. I did the same.

In creating my negative head, I could feel myself scratching away with pastel on paper, rubbing and smudging, blurring and spilling every ounce of negative feeling into the dark-edged drawing that was my fearful self. There were glimmers in there too… fighting the dark, but overall this image represented the fear of a beige existence, tied to a job I do not love, a reality that is far from my own right now, but a possibility that seems to be raising its head from time to time. I resist and resist and even thinking about it I feel the darkness descend, starting right in my eyes and moving up over my head and down my neck, into my back, shoulders and beyond. It comes from the fact that I do not have a steady, stable income. I am not in reliable employment, I am feeling my way, just getting by, and how does that equate with a life in which I have a mortgage and two children depending on me? But I trust in the process. I believe wholeheartedly (and some might say naively, but they may never experience) that this exciting and terrifying ride will lead to freedom. And when I say “freedom”, I mean freedom from the cage of other people’s expectations. I mean freedom from being chained to a life that is not your own. I mean the freedom to be me… the me I am yearning to be.

And so, in the other head, I created my colourful life. I filled it with layers of greens and blues and let the brightness of all that I wish for and all I am working towards shine, and it felt good and it flowed freely and easily and I rose above my shadow and felt liberated and ready to take on the world. All of the negativity had slipped away and I was left with a feeling that this was the way forward and I only wished that we had more time.

We shared our stories… the challenges and the desired outcomes and described how we had represented these feelings and how it felt to be creating and sharing amongst friends.

It was a powerful releasing and allowing…a shedding… a letting go… a way of tapping into our emotions and creating a new reality… a brighter future being mapped out right there and then on paper with our own hands. And in sharing we were connecting.

My immediate thought was that a whole day of doing this kind of thing could be so worthwhile… encouraging and allowing people to make imperfect art for the sheer joy of creating and using art as a way of tapping into our emotions and letting go and sharing the story with new friends.

So this is my path. For now, I will continue to map out my own emotions. I will empty the negative into my art and create the positive new. This is my breakthrough. This is my path out of The Slump and not only this one, but any more that await me just over the horizon too.

Letting go: the fear and the brighter path

I would love to know what big breakthroughs you have experienced following a slump. Have you used your art as a path out of the darkness and into the light?
Please feel free to share your experiences here…

With love,
Julia x

 

The slump

I’m there. I am there in the place I always arrive at, but choose to forget: the slump. It is a place that is part of the challenge and I am right back in the thick of it. By the the time I get here, it is too late to turn back. Day 12. I am not even half way through. I have made it this far, why stop now? Because now, the challenges outweigh my energy to deal with them. But I can’t stop. I am in too deep. This is the point at which the easy option is to give up, but then I would be right back where I started and that’s not the point of all this. The point is to push on through. The point it to come face to face with the challenges and keep going regardless… keep going even though I have no clue which direction I will take next or where all this is leading me or even why I am even doing it at all. I get here when I have been burning the candle at both ends, getting up too early, staying up too late, trying to squeeze a little something into a tiny window of time and then getting caught up in the flow and not wanting to stop. Those are the moments when I come alive… the moments I feel happiest, the moments when the creativity is just spilling out and I never want to stop. And then life kicks in and reality hits and I need to sleep, but I just want to keep going, and the house is a tip and we have no milk or bread and have work still to do, but it’s time for the school run and I am late again and I feel like a hamster on a wheel and that’s not the point of this.

Stop.

It’s OK.

It’s all part of the process.

I don’t have to change my life in one hit.

Patience.

Look at what I have achieved. This is not about beating myself up about what I haven’t done, or can’t do. This is the moment to step back and evaluate.

This is day 12. Less than 2 weeks in and I am back in flow. I am doing things that make me come alive. This is often the moment before the breakthroughs happen… when you ride the storm and come out the other side; brighter, stronger. This was about finding my direction again and I have already learned so much about letting go and I have already moved two people to re-commit to their creativity. Is that not progress enough? Patience. Time for a little self-care. Time to talk to myself kindly. Time to give myself space. Time to say that it’s OK just to post a little doodle I did whilst listening to a lecture on an artist last night. Time to breathe. Time to re-commit. Time to remind myself that this is worthwhile. Time to tame the voices in my head.

What about the fact that I am feeling like I have no direction?
What about the new pieces of art that are being created… more stuff to find a home for when I am trying to clear the clutter?
What about the fact that I need more work; need to make more money?
What about the fact that I don’t have a defined style and all the artists whose work I admire do?

I don’t even have to answer those questions right now. They are not important. They come ffrom the part of me that puts the brakes on. Acknowledge that they exist and move on through.

This is natural. It’s part of the process. Embrace the unknown. Push. On. Through.

What do you do when you hit the slump? I would love to know what you do when the slump hits you?

Using my hands to heal my heart

Healing Hands on Heart

Whilst strolling through Hyde Park today, I came upon Speakers’ Corner, a place I had not been to in 20 years. Wandering amongst the crowds, listening to the speakers, observing the interactions, it struck me that I am now in a similar position to where I was some 20 years ago, as a young woman, new to London, delving into her creativity, not sure where it would lead, but enjoying life’s little adventures, exploring the city and the characters within it. This time, I am older, a mother of two young boys, single for the first time in 20 years and committing to my creativity once again.

This realisation gave me a strange feeling which I felt deep in my heart. It was a kind of anxiety… a me on my own in the big, wide world, no partner to share with, and the responsibility of two children who rely upon me kind of a feeling. But it was also a fullness… a feeling that anything is possible, this is just down to me now, and I am free to create whatever I wish for me and my kids.

The reality, of course, is somewhere in between… their Dad remains very active in the boys’ lives, so it is not just me they rely upon. And the dreams…? There is no guarantee I can create all I may wish for the boys and I, but I can do my best to create a wonderful life for us all. And my heart…? I haven’t given up hope… far from it, but it could do with a little healing.

So, in my month of making art, I am seeking to reconnect with myself. I am using my hands to connect with my heart. Today, I created a little something that makes me smile. It is a simple something that warms my heart makes me feel protected.

In being present, and in putting my hands on my heart, I can give myself all the love I need right now… and in making my art, I will hopefully create something that not only heals me, but that may, if I am lucky, speak to the hearts of other people.