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

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…

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?

What inspired you today?

Today, I was out and about between school runs, shooting a video in Regents Park for the 30 Day Challenge and taking in the everyday inspirations that we too often take for granted. I do love my freelance life.

On Highbury & Islington station, between underground train arriving and overground train leaving, I had just ten minutes to kill. Again, I was overwhelmed by the wealth of pattern and texture, image and inspiration and shot more than 20 usable images. The dirt splattered walls made me want to get busy with charcoal and the broken ceiling lights looked stunning through a lens. Off at my home stop again, I was taken with the simple beauty of staple-studded wooden poles and a scratched and splintered fence. I have plans for these images… you will see some here in future weeks. I hope they will encourage others to look twice.

What inspired you today?

In praise of play

What does play mean to you?
And fun…? When was the last time you really had some fun?

It can be so easy to slip silently and unconsciously into serious mode and spend days in a row working or just getting by, doing the necessaries, but little more. Engaging in activities that make our heart sing is so vital to our well being, as is spending quality time with people we love. So grab a friend if you can, step away from the screen and go have some fun!

Time playing is far from time wasted. When you are feeling stuck and unproductive, go play. Just think how much more energy you will have! Ideas and inspiration are natural by-products when you are in flow, so do things that make you feel good. Play regularly. Don’t hold back.

Last week, after too many days in the previous month spent face to screen, I played full on. Activities included:
Snooker with the kids
Bouncing on a trampoline
Bat and ball on the beach with my partner
Horse riding with my 5 year old son
Hide and seek
Drawing
Making beach art
Water balloon fights with my partner and our boys

Oh, we laughed and smiled so much. It was like someone had hit the reset button. I regained my perspective and got in touch with my playful spirit. This week, I am filled with energy and enthusiasm for my work and my mission. I am more creative and productive than I have been in rather too long and it’s all down to time out and fun. So here’s to more play and more fun because grown ups need to play too.
What will you do?

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?

In praise of slow time

Last week, me, my boys, my boyfriend and his boy went on holiday. It is a rare occasion that we all get to spend time together like this… released from the pressures of work and travel and other commitments. Days like these seem long and full and we go to bed tired, but satisfied.

On Wednesday, up early, I decided to take a little bit of time out and by 7am, I was solitary by the sea. Such moments of silent alone time were regular in my life before I had my boys. I often took time out, in cafes and other quiet spaces, just to be and to give myself the headroom to write about whatever came up for me. I would walk to the park in the early morning before work or stroll out in the evening before sleep. These days, such moments are rare jewels and when they do come, are sometimes tinged with guilt or with longing. But Wednesday morning was perfect with the beach as my canvas… the stones and shells and seaweed my raw materials. This was real slow time… time to explore and express myself freely. Bliss. Such slow time is essential… it is our opportunity to reflect and connect with our true selves. Without it, are we not just going through the motions?

Our days away were long and and filled with simple everyday magic as we rose early, cooked and ate and went walking under big skies. The simplest of things made me smile as we engaged in activities where we connected with our environment, with the elements and with each other… fishing, sailing, riding. This is the kind of magic I would love to experience every day. I will seek ways of making this a reality. In the mean time, slow walks home through the park after the morning school run are my current indulgence and set me up nicely for the day, but I intend to expand on these.

What does your simple, everyday magic look like?
Please share your thoughts with me…

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

Draw when you need to de-stress

Tuesday was challenging: a new project; a large group of fresh faces; a tube strike. I made it through. I left home at the crack of dawn to run the first in a series of ten 4 hour workshops for a gallery in Chichester. By the end of the day, I could barely walk, let alone think straight and was having visions of stopping at the first service station for an extended nap in order to safely drive the rest of the way home. Instead, I chose to go directly to the nearest café for a hot chocolate and lemon cake refuel. My intention was also to log on to Facebook to see what people were sharing in the group on the second day of my online creativity course. seeing the posts there prompted me to pick up a pen and add drawing to my refuel stop. Doing something so different from the focus of my day, in a fresh environment, was just what I needed to shift the energy and prepare to hit the road. Art has a habit of doing that for me… art is my de-stresser; my changer of energy. I sailed home, to uplifting music, with a head full of ideas, under dramatic skies. Today, I used art as a meditation… a way of clearing my mind of the clutter of the day. Again, it shifted the energy. In doodling away, my mind flashed back, for the first time in years, to the times when, as a teen, drawing had been my quiet friend, leading me out of one feeling and into another, more comfortable place. The reminder today? To draw when I feel uneasy; to doodle when I need to de-stress; to make art more often as it has so many benefits.

Creative Freedom video

This week, in an attempt to share my art far and wide, I have posted the first video of my art on YouTube. It feels new to be sharing in this way and I hope that doing so will help me reach a wider audience. As with everything on my journey to creative freedom, this is a little experiment. So, here goes… see what you think.

If you would like to experience Creative Freedom for yourself, click here.