Six steps to creative success


As a personal development specialist and practicing artist, I work with people who want to rediscover their creative side. If you’ve been busy, raising children, running a business, or working up the career ladder you may have lost sight of your talents. Good news though – it’s never too late to discover or re-connect with your more creative self.

Here is an easy to follow six-step process to bring out the hidden talents

1. Invest time and find ways to connect with your logical and emotional self.

Before you start on your creative journey, it is wise to understand yourself as fully as possible. What does creativity mean to you? What do you think creativity will add to your life? Who do you want to make your objects for, yourself, to share with others?

I do many creative things, some of which I just keep for myself; some I share with others through selling or exhibiting, and there are some that I make and then destroy, just for the experience of doing. I see cooking as a creativity activity which allows me to share an experience and bring pleasure to others. Knowing these things helps me enjoy the creative process more, because I know what I am looking for from the process of creation.

It’s important to discover your reasons for developing creativity; it may be an intellectual pursuit, a logical and practical goal or a purely emotional one. More than likely it will be a combination of reasons. If you identify the why you will be clearer on the what and the how.

2. Emotionally engage with a creative idea or object

I  use my creativity to work through ideas and concepts that I am curious about or I have a strong interest in. Going from an idea to production can take months even years, so I need to find my subject or topic interesting. Creative activities such as writing a book are long processes, so it is important that an idea or subject can sustain your attention.

If you want to make or create something, my advice would be to find a subject that really interests or compels you. A couple of good examples would be:

– My sister, who is about to become a grandmother for the first time. She has found the motivation to put time aside to be creative and has discovered she is an excellent knitter and quilter.

– A client that I have coached has honed his photography skills, knowing that retirement is around the corner; through the camera he will be able to explore the world around him more creatively.

Both of these individuals are clear why they want to be more creative and are emotionally engaged in what they are doing.

3. Find inspiration

A common misconception is that creative people have fully formed ideas that are completely self-generated. That is like thinking you can get a command of a language from holidaying in a country or from reading a book. Creativity, like language, needs many different influences and inputs to become fully formed.

If you want to write a book, find authors who inspire you and then really get under the skin of why you like their writing. It is also good to read material you don’t like, and compare it to what you do like. Try to uncover what works for you and what doesn’t. To be fair we often learn more from what we don’t like than what we do. I would encourage you to discuss with others your likes and dislikes, which will help to focus your own thoughts.

Whatever creative activity you take up, look for inspiration from others, take time to really consider what you like and don’t like.

4. Play

In 1877 the Painter Whistler sued the critic John Ruskin for libel after the critic wrote a scathing review of Whistler’s painting entitled Nocturne in Black and Gold. During the court case Whistler was asked by the Attorney General how long it took to create the painting. His response was that it took two days, one to paint it the next to finish it. The Attorney General asked “For the labour of two days, you ask 200 guineas?” Whistler replied “No, I ask it for the knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime.” He won the case, albeit with symbolic damages of one farthing.

It is important to play, be kind and patient with yourself in the process as there is no substitute for time and practice.

In my experience there are two kinds of people when it comes to creating. The first sees the thing they want to make fully formed in their heads whether it be photograph, painting, story etc. before they start; the other just starts and sees what happens. The challenge is that no matter how you work, what you produce rarely matches the picture in your head or the feeling you originally wanted to convey. One reason for this is simply that what is in your head is not a reality. That picture is like imagining a perfect homecoming after being away for a couple of nights. In truth, the reality rarely corresponds to the expectation.

So when I say play – I mean try and limit your expectations as much as possible and just play without thinking about results; take time to engage with the process. You will gain more by really learning to handle the creative tool or craft you are engaging with, rather than focusing on the ‘product’.

If you can talk to others about what you have made while you are playing, then tell them what you like about it and what you don’t like about it. It is always good to be with others who are being creative; it doesn’t have to be people working in the same field of creativity. One of the best things about having a studio in a complex with other artists is that you can talk and share learning and thinking with others.

Saying what you think and how you feel about your work out loud can challenge or confirm your own thoughts. It is the same if you are doing something new at work; it always helps to involve others even if it is just to confirm you are on the right track. That is why joining a club, a class or working with another person can help you develop your skills and thinking at a faster pace than creating on your own.

5. Do the doing and give yourself time

Often I get to a stage when I am compelled to create, I have had enough of talking and I need to get on with the doing. Each stage is not set in stone; it is an intuitive process, and sometimes I sense that I am procrastinating. When that is so, I force myself to do. The important factor is to be aware of what is holding you back or pushing you forward. Be intuitive and don’t make excuses for not doing.

My biggest tip here is not to judge what you have created as soon as you have made it. I see so many people take a digital photo and delete it immediately. They do not allow any emotional distance from the taking to the viewing. Through deleting like this we also lose many of what we call ‘happy accidents’.

I run creative workshops using digital cameras and I do not allow the photographers to look at the images during the sessions. I then make prints and show them their images at the next session. On my last workshop 2 out of the 8 participants loved their ‘happy accidents’ and went on to reproduce the effects that they had accidently created for their final exhibition pieces.

Whether you are writing, potting, painting or creating digital content, give yourself some time and space between doing and reviewing. Once you have that distance you will be a better judge of your work. Again I would encourage you to share your work in progress with others.

6. Be kind to yourself

I would urge you to be your own constructive critic, but make sure you don’t become over critical. The job of your critical self is to push your creativity, not to beat yourself up. This is so important. Your good critic will push you on; your bad critic will stop you enjoying what you are doing and will prevent you from becoming the creative person you have the ability to be. Be positive about what you have created, talk to yourself like you would someone you love rather than a harsh critic.

If you can strike that happy balance you will continue to grow, learn and enjoy the creative process. The output or product will just be the icing on the cake.

If this all appeals to you but you feel you may need some help to discover or re-connect to your creative self, contact me directly to discuss how I can make the process easy and fun.

How to Reduce Negative Head Chatter


Do you believe that your internal head chatter impacts on your performance and confidence levels, or is a significant factor in your confidence?

Here is the simple intervention. Viktor Frankl (1905 -1997) developed the model below.

Stimuli are the things that come at us both internally, as thoughts and feelings and externally from others and environment.

Viktor Frankl’s was an Austrian Jewish Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. It was during his time held in concentration camps that he developed the model. Frankl discovered that even in the cruelest of environments… ‘Between stimulus and response man has the freedom to choose’.

Whilst for most of us there is no comparison to the suffering Frankl experienced, the model holds as true for us today as it ever has.

I think of the gap between stimulus and response as the ‘pause’. The pause enables you to give your thoughts a reality check. Use the pause to identify the root cause of your negative thoughts and raise your self-awareness to what is driving your thoughts and feelings and how they are affecting your performance or sense of wellbeing. Use your imagination to see things differently, or to visualise events and situations more realistically or positively. Listen to your conscience, would you speak to someone else as you are talking to yourself? Are you being kind or too hard on yourself? Are you berating or encouraging yourself? Finally to exercise your independent will, don’t be a victim of your own thoughts, most of the time they are just thoughts not a reality.

Once you have practiced the pause you will be amazed how quickly you can respond to your thoughts and feelings at a more conscious level. This will enable you to recognise rather than respond to negative head chatter.

I recommend you print out Frankl’s model and at the end of every day ask yourself, (1) Did I do my best to reduce my negative chatter (2) Did I do my best to respond to reality and not thoughts?

NB: If you want to hear more of Viktor Frankl here is a link to a rare short clip TED

The question format I have used in this text is taken from Marshall Goldsmith’s book Triggers.  Here is a link to one of Marshall’s blogs

Confidence – how important is it?


Have you experienced a lapse in confidence? We all have them. Once in a while, the little lapse lasts longer than it should. Sometimes the little lapse turns into a yawning chasm. That’s the moment when folk suddenly start to believe that they’re really not very good at doing whatever it is. They forget to ask themselves about the state of their confidence, and just assume the worst.

Our low confidence impacts on our behavior. That in turn informs how others see us and expect us to behave. Before you know it you are trapped in a cycle of low confidence and low expectations both from yourself and others.

Does that sound familiar? Here is a little exercise you can do to check in with your confidence levels.

First of all, think about a time in your life when you felt very confident. Write down the goals you set yourself then, and the things you achieved. Now write down your latest goals for the next 1 – 3 years. Score your goals for how stretching are they compared to the goals you set at your most confident Score from 1 – 10, with 1 not stretching at all, and 10 very stretching.

Score your likelihood to achieve your goals, again from1 – 10 with 1 for unlikely to achieve, and 10 for certain to achieve. Now take your mind back to your most confident self and re-score your current goals on likelihood to achieve, but this time using your super confident mindset. Is there a notable difference?

Comparing your confident self with your current self, are there are large discrepancies between ambition and likelihood to achieve? What has made you a different person? What helped you when you were more confident and what could you do now that would give you some of that confidence back?

Some times you just have to act confident to feel confident, however confidence often comes from how we feel and think, neither of which are 100% reliable. It is important to look for evidence of your achievements rather than relying on your feeling and thoughts to assess whether you are capable of achieving a task or a goal.

There is a school of thought that argues it is evidence that determine how we perform. For example if you have recorded a time of 15 seconds to run 100 meters whether you are confident or not you know you can run 100 meters in 15 seconds.

It’s important to remember confidence is a fluctuating thing skills are not. You are not less capable when you are less confident. Base your assessment of yourself on hard evidence, not thoughts and feelings.

In summary look for evidence of your capabilities, then with a knowing mindset do the doing, the more you do the more confident you will become.

Who wins the battle of your two wolves?

Bruce Springsteen on Desert Island discs gave me a light bulb moment. He said that all artists are shaped by childhoods whereby they are both demonised and worshipped. His own experience was a mother who believed that he was the second coming of the baby Jesus, and a father who believed he wasn’t worth dirt.

Springsteen’s comments bring the well-told story of the two wolves to mind.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside all of us,” he says to the boy. “It is a fight between two wolves. One is bad – he is hate, envy, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority and jealousy. He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity and compassion.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

We all have experienced positive and negative responses. Of course if, like Springsteen, it’s about your parents, then the impact is deep. The reason Springsteen’s comment resonated with me was the similarity of my experience. My mother pretty much thought the sun shone out of my backside, while my father seemed to care more about where his next drink was coming from.

But which of these two win the battle is my choice. I have always chosen my mother.

It is not without difficulty – the negativity does slip in and this is where my support network comes in. I surround myself with people who believe in me. With those friends and the evidence around me I can believe in myself, as my mother still does to this day.

Who are your wolves and which do you chose to win the battle?

Here is the link to the Bruce Springsteen interview on Desert Island Discs

Talk these things over with close friends or you coach

  1. Who are your wolves?
  2. When are you most aware of them?
  3. What evidence do you have to support your good wolf?

How can you make sure you listen to your loving, kind and compassion wolf?

This article is focused on helping you build emotional intelligence, the more we understand ourselves to more able we are to understand and adapt to others and our environment.

Curious Minds Consulting – Closing the gap between potential and achievement

Are your labels holding you back?

We all know what a label is in terms of brands and tags on objects, however are you aware of the labels you attribute to yourself?

As a Personal Development Specialist, Workshop Facilitator and practising artist I pay particular attention to the labels people live with.

Watching my son’s development at school I feel the most concern when his confidence and self-esteem wavers, particularly in subjects where subjectivity comes into play, such as art. His confidence and enjoyment of a subject can vary enormously according to who is teaching him and the feedback he receives.

It can be disheartening when a teacher describes your work as not good, particularly when it comes to a creative subject like art. Of course, there are technical skills to be learned – and proficiency in any medium be it painting, drawing, glass-making or metalwork will only come with years of practise – but creativity grows through encouragement and nurturing. I would be a wealthy woman if I had £1 for each person that tells me “I am not creative”. There are very few children who do not like creating; in fact I have never met one. It is just a limiting label that has been accepted; maybe at school one small element of art like drawing wasn’t the person’s strong point. Once you have accepted the label ‘I am not creative’ you are unlikely to go on and develop your creative skills.

In any subject, whether it’s maths, english, art or science, you often hear that a child is ‘good’ or ‘no good’ – and the label tends to stick throughout one’s life. In reality, a child may be strong in some aspects of the subject and weaker in others and their confidence in moving forward very much depends on how their teacher responds.

I remember my fantastic year 7, maths teacher whose confidence in my ability lived on beyond my schooldays. She was an open person and an expert in her subject; she was not egotistical – the lessons were all about her pupils rather than herself; she was nurturing and endeavoured to bring out the best in all her pupils; her words and actions demonstrated that she believed in me – and thankfully that had a lasting impact beyond the poor maths teachers I endured in later years.

Today the label ‘I am good at maths’ remains with me but had I not had that teacher who believed in me I may have ended up always thinking differently. English was difficult for me because I struggled with spelling, so I have had to over-come the deep-set belief that because I am a poor speller, I’m poor at English. I am still surprised when people describe me as very articulate.

We can all recall those labels that were given to us as children and which live on in us – a friend was always described by her family as ‘quiet and shy’ while her sister was labelled as ‘loud’ and a ‘show off’, they continue to be haunted and hindered by these characterisations. I often hear people like hairdressers say they are not intelligent because they were told they lacked intellect at school and yet they are without doubt skilled, creative and good with people!

Is it possible to shake off labels? The answer is yes. Write a list of your labels and discuss them with someone you trust, saying them out loud can help you recognise the impact they are having on you. Think about how they came about and consider how much they continue to affect you, are they having a positive or negative impact on you? Do you use your labels to hide behind and stay in your comfort zone? Ask yourself when and how the label affects you and pressure test it by tuning into your feelings, asking is this a label that is making me feel nervous or concerned?

Finally learn to treasure the labels that give you wings – and ditch or reduce the impact of the ones that do you harm.

Feel free to drop me a line or respond to this blog if you would like to share your experience on how labels have propelled you forward or held you back.

About the writer: Tracey specialises in coaching individuals and teams in emotional intelligence, diversity and creativity. Following a successful career in leadership roles within sales and marketing Tracey has a wealth of experience working across a diverse range of roles and sectors with managers and individuals at all levels. Tracey is a creative thinker that is able to take a holistic view to help clients formulate clear strategies and execute plans that achieve results.

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