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Catching Fireworks

Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching

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Making the most of December

Posted on 5 December, 2018 at 13:55 Comments comments (0)



December is a strange time for freelancers. On the one hand, you might be hectically trying to get work finished before the break or on the other, you are left waiting for work until the New Year as potential clients are winding down.


Whichever camp you find yourself in, December is a good time to be networking. Received wisdom will tell you that if you work alone, you won't have an office party. This doesn't mean you need to be sitting at home during the festive season like a Billy No-Mates.

 

If you have been busy during the year making contacts or going to events, it is surprising how many Christmas parties you will get invited to. They could be run by colleagues, collaborators, suppliers, venues, networking groups, professional bodies and of course, social groups. Whoever hosts them, they are great opportunities to touch base with existing contacts and make more.

 

Even for the most Scrooge like, it is worth getting involved with the seasonal jollity whether it is drinks at the pub or a sit down meal. If you have a product or service which can be packaged as a Christmas gift, you might get a chance to catch the last minute gift buyers. You can pick people's brains about their plans for the New Year so that you can be ready to get back in touch with them in January. As they look ahead, you may even start to sow seeds about ways they might need your work in the next 12 months. At the very worse, you will meet a bunch of great people to add to your network who may be very useful to know at some point in the future.


So, put on your party shoes, pack your business cards and get out there!

Wishlist

Posted on 29 November, 2018 at 8:10 Comments comments (0)



I keep a wishlist.


It is made up of two types of items.  Some are those things which I am actually going to do and they live on the list as reminders until I am ready to put them into action.  For example, when I lived in Chester, I had ‘move back to London’ on the list.  Over a couple of years, this went from being a general idea, to becoming a real vision, a plan, actions and finally, reality.


Other things live on the list as ‘wouldn’t it be nice?”, but to which I am not necessary committed to doing anything about at the moment.  They live on the list as possibilities if the right circumstances arise.  These can be things like have a portrait done (by the wonderful Taragh), direct a film, go to Buenos Aries …  Some of these things have happened, some have yet to happen.


The great thing about having items on a wishlist, rather than a To Do list, is that it keeps them in your mind, but without the pressure of having yet something else to think about.  Also, occasionally it just isn’t the right time - you might need to get more skills, more money, you haven’t met the right person/group of people, it is a ‘nice’ thing but not a priority, the idea isn’t yet fully formed, or any other number of reasons.  My wishlist has the names of several people I already know with whom I want to work in the future, but the project just hasn’t shown itself yet.


Some things my clients have on their lists include: get an accountant; get a cleaner; get a Virtual Assistant; learn French; go for a specialist holiday to learn to use watercolours; go on a yoga retreat; trace a family tree.  Every so often, when the time and the feeling is right, one of these wishes makes it on to the To Do list, where it is then planned, put into a timeline and actions identified.


By reviewing your wishlist on a regular basis (I look at mine every couple of months), you remind yourself of things which you would like and they sit at the back of your mind for that moment when someone mentions they run intensive French courses and have a special discount at the moment, have just hired a really good VA, or know a yoga teacher who wants to run a trial retreat and needs volunteers.  (All these are real examples which have happened to clients.)


So, what will go on your Wishlist today?

Take Five with Charlotte Zalepa

Posted on 22 November, 2018 at 9:55 Comments comments (0)


Charlotte Zalepa is the award winning jeweller behind Chalk Designs. Much of her work is inspired by nature, both in subject and in the slow and unhurried process of the wax carving which is the starting point for creating her beautiful pieces. Also inspired by her commitment to the world around us, Charlotte uses recycled silver as her material of choice. She has also joined forces with ethical fashion designer Gung Ho to handcraft three of Britain's most endangered insects, the Stag Beetle, Tiger Moth and Bumble Bee. Each sale of these insects gives a £5 donation to Friends of the Earth.

In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

It is going to sound pretty cliché, but the best thing for me is being my own boss. In simple terms this gives me freedom and responsibility, and this authority over my life is the path to happiness. For most of us we work more hours than we don’t, and so it’s really important that if you have the opportunity to choose the work that suits your needs, then surely it is a no brainer. At the beginning I found that working for others was a way for me to learn, meet people in my industry, and get paid at the same time, and so it was a very important stepping stone to get me where I am today. However, during my previous jobs after a certain amount of time I would loose interest in the repetitiveness of my role, feel generally unfulfilled day to day, and having learnt what I felt I needed to I would search for the next step in my career. It’s worth mentioning that of course this isn’t the easy route, especially in terms of making money it can be quite a strain working for yourself. After years of grafting I am starting to see my hard work paying off, and it just makes me so much happier to know that I have achieved even this much off my own back. Frankly you can’t buy happiness, you make it.


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

I am quite in awe of most creatives I meet who work for themselves, I know how difficult it is, and when they give off this excited energy about their work I can’t help but feed off it. There is one person who stands out for me personally and has influenced my more recent endeavours, which I would describe as ‘more me’. Charlotte De Syllas is a renowned Artist Jeweller who works with gemstone, carving it into beautiful fluid forms. I actually took a week gemstone carving class with her in 2014, (gosh I can’t believe it was that long ago), in which I persuaded her to take this class, and I am so glad I did. From when I have met her, read about her as a person and her work, seen her work in the flesh, I have always taken away this sense of contentment and passion she has for what she does. She may say I’ve got that totally wrong and it may have taken her years to feel that way, but for me it is an ongoing reminder that I don’t need to constantly be on top of everything and should take a step back from time to time and enjoy myself, otherwise what is the point of it all. Not only this, I find her work to be magnificent, it oozes this simplistic skilful manipulation of a material I hope I too can one day achieve in my own work. Check her work out at the link below.


What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

Set out your goals every year, month, week and day, if I’m totally honest I was probably told this but only now have started to get to grips with what it actually entails. This is something I have slowly learnt to do over the years out of necessity, and I think will carry on developing as my life inevitably changes. The years before this realisation look like a complete shambles to me. I would rely on my brain to remember everything, with the odd little list here and there but nothing substantial. So now at the end of the day, week, month, and year, I can look back on my goals and see what I have achieved, what can be changed and what still needs to be done. It sounds so simple but my goals and interests can develop so frequently that the only way to keep up is to write it down!

My advice to anyone working for themselves would be to set aside a few hours or a whole day (if you can spare it), and try to get to grips with all your goals for the rest of the year, then break it into your current priorities and anything that has a deadline. I promise you, even if it doesn’t sit right with you at first, you will develop a strategy for goal keeping all of your own. In time you should find that this will deduce the crazed moments of overwhelming, help you take the wheel, and give you a better overall understanding of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

In that moment I find the best way to work through the block is by creating a massive diagram on A2 paper (or bigger if you can), then scribbling down everything on my mind, work and personal. It helps me to get to grips with what it is that is stopping me and what my goals and priorities are, getting me back on track. I don’t tend to have moments where I have nothing to do and twiddle my thumbs, but I can have moments where I don’t know which thing on my list to do and can procrastinate on tasks that should take minutes but end up taking hours, or focusing on tasks that I don’t need to do. I talk to other creatives about this problem and it is surprising how many of us suffer with this overload = procrastination block. For me this creative block is usually caused by a ‘crazed moment of overwhelming’ (as mentioned in my previous answer), and so this diagram is actually an important goal strategising moment where you often readjust or recall your goals.


And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

I’d probably be a Dr Martens boot; well worn (of course), practical, and chunky, all the things I like in a shoe. The history of the Dr Marten boot speaks of a creative self expression that challenges society, and I might not be the most out spoken person, but my values and creative expression is becoming more and more driven by this need have a say in conversations that really matter to me.


Links:

Visualisation for Well Being

Posted on 15 November, 2018 at 4:20 Comments comments (0)


I have written before about creating a vision for your future and how it can motivate you.


Visualisation is also a terrific tool to use in other circumstances. When I had panic attacks in the past, a tool I used to manage them has been a visualisation process learnt from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. It is a displacement activity, taking you out of the immediate panic and giving you space to calm down.


You begin the process when you are unstressed. The idea is that you spend time (maybe a few sessions of 5 or 10 minutes) building up a strong picture of your ‘safe place’ so that if/when a stressful situation occurs, you can immediately switch into your fully imagined place. (For me, it is Venice.)


To build the picture:*

 

  • Start by getting comfortable in a quiet place where you won't be disturbed, and take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing, close your eyes, become aware of any tension in your body, and let that tension go with each out-breath.
  • Imagine a place where you can feel calm, peaceful and safe. It may be a place you've been to before, somewhere you've dreamed about going to, somewhere you've seen a picture of, or just a peaceful place you can create in your mind’s eye.
  • Look around you in that place, notice the colours and shapes. What else do you notice?
  • Now notice the sounds that are around you, or perhaps the silence. Sounds far away and those nearer to you. Those that are more noticeable, and those that are more subtle.
  • Think about any smells you notice there.
  • Then focus on any skin sensations - the earth beneath you or whatever is supporting you in that place, the temperature, any movement of air, anything else you can touch.
  • Notice the pleasant physical sensations in your body whilst you enjoy this safe place.
  • Now whilst you're in your peaceful and safe place, you might choose to give it a name, whether one word or a phrase that you can use to bring that image back, anytime you need to.
  • You can choose to linger there a while, just enjoying the peacefulness and serenity. You can leave whenever you want to, just by opening your eyes and being aware of where you are now, and bringing yourself back to alertness in the 'here and now'.



It is a great and easy tool where you create your own experience of calm and which, even better, no-one can see you using. (Sometimes the fear of others seeing you having/dealing a panic attack can add to the stress, so a ‘secret’ tool is doubly beneficial.)

So, if ever you are with me in a stressful situation and I momentarily zone out, I am just taking in the Venetian air!


Links:

*(taken from http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk where you can also find many other useful CBT tools)

https://www.catchingfireworks.co.uk/apps/blog/show/45758903-waterloo-sunset-and-the-power-of-visioning

The Harder I Work...

Posted on 8 November, 2018 at 4:25 Comments comments (0)



...the luckier I get is a quote ascribed to several people. Who originally said it is unimportant.


I have often been described by people who don’t know me well as being “lucky”: in the right place at the right time, etc.


My letter asking if there were any vacancies as a window dresser arrived on the day the junior window dresser handed in their notice.


When a theatre marketing job came up, I was contacted because I had been talking to people about how to get into the profession.


When asked a contact to help me revamp my CV, she offered me a job project managing her new business.


A fundraiser friend got a celebrity patron for her charity because having lucked out via the actor’s agent, she happen to mention it to an acquaintance, whose girlfriend was the actor’s PA.


A client wanted to reach the then editor of a leading newspaper. She mentioned it at a networking meeting and someone in the group turned out to be the editor’s house sitter.


Yes, these all seem like luck or coincidence, things which happen by chance. However, in every case, these was an intention and an action (or a series of actions) which had to be in place first. I had to write letters; get into networks. The fundraiser had to identify the potential person they wanted to get the charity message out. And in all cases, once the “coincidence” happened, it had to be backed up with a track record of hard work and knowledge. So you have to do the work, meet the people, know what you want and get the message out.


Trusting to luck is a nice idea, but luck never shows up unless you do.

Trick or Treat?!

Posted on 30 October, 2018 at 17:35 Comments comments (0)



As Halloween approaches, it marks not only the night when we use “the power of humor and ridicule to confront the power of death” (Portaro, Sam: A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Cowley Publications) but also just 2 months until the end of the year.


So, what have been the tricks or mischiefs which have been played on your life, work or career during the year? The plans which haven’t worked so far; the ideas which have stalled in the starting blocks; the brick walls you have hit?


Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on what your plans were at the beginning of the year and where you are with them now. Are you still committed to achieving them? What can you do to move them forward? Where can you get support? How much do you want to get done by the end of December or will you regroup and start it again in January?


On the other side, what have been the treats of the year? So often, we concentrate on the negatives whilst the positives just pass us by, so look at the goals achieved; the unexpected opportunities which came up; the moments when you powered through a problem and came out the other side laughing; the new friends and contacts you have made? This is a brilliant time (actually, it’s always a brilliant time) to give yourself a treat and celebrate all the great stuff which has happened and that you have created in your life.

 

Every life has a mixture of tricks and treats. Learn from the tricks, seize the treats and start to build for next year on the back of all this great experience!


Happy Halloween!


Links:

Photo by Toni Cuenca from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/backlit-black-candle-candlelight-619420/

What Would I Be Doing Without Coaching?

Posted on 25 October, 2018 at 5:35 Comments comments (0)


I was asked recently how I got into coaching and I told my story (as mentioned in a previous blog - link below).

 

I was then asked another question, which really got me thinking:

 

“If you hadn’t gone for coaching, what would you be doing now?”

 

Wow!

 

Well, I can’t know what might have turned up if I had just kept going along the path I was on.  Who knows what other opportunities might have turned up? All I can give is the picture as I saw it from where I was then.  


I was a fundraising manager for a charity and the logical next step was to apply for jobs which were the next step up: Director of Development, for example. This would have been putting myself and my future in other peoples’ hands. Waiting for jobs to be advertised/become available; putting in my application to be weighed against others and found satisfactory/wanting; preparing for/getting stressed about interviews; waiting for the phone to ring to tell me if I had been successful or not.  And all this for a career that I didn’t really want to have anymore.

 

Having been employed all my working life, going freelance wasn’t even on the radar. Neither was bringing all my skills together and creating my own career.

 

Without the intervention of coaching, I probably would have carried on as I had for the whole of my previous working life - clocking in, drawing down a regular salary, getting bored every 3 or 4 years, moving on and looking forward to retirement. 


Instead, here I am 10 years on, having built a coaching practice, become a public speaker and written a book. In my freelance life, I can sit writing whilst looking out over London as dusk falls, having spent a morning with a marvellous client at their studio, before meeting up with a group of coaching colleagues and then going on to a Private View. Yesterday was totally different and tomorrow will be different again. I work hours I want and because I love what I do, health permitting, I don’t intend to retire.

 

You might not want to change your life completely. You may not know what you want to do. You may just have the feeling, as I did, that something needed to change. Whether that turns out to be changing your horizons, your mindset or a few unhelpful habits, coaching could be the way through.

 


Links:

https://www.catchingfireworks.co.uk/apps/blog/show/45628021-how-i-discovered-coaching

Take Five with Annette Peppis

Posted on 15 October, 2018 at 9:45 Comments comments (0)



Annette Peppis is a graphic designer of many years standing who has worked for clients large and small, ranging from the BBC and NHS to small companies and solitary freelancers. She understand the challenges that businesses face and with every job, brings her common sense, imagination and excellent organisation. Annette is the designer of the What's Your Excuse books, bringing a cohesive smart and elegant design across the brand, whilst giving each book an individuality through the glorious colours of each cover. (As it is my favourite colour, and part of my branding, I asked Annette for an orange cover and she did not disappoint!)


In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

Being able to solve clients problems creatively. It pleases them and I get great job satisfaction.


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

Herb Lubalin was one of the original ‘Mad Men’, an art director / graphic designer / typographer who ran his own advertising agency in New York in the 60s and 70s. He learned calligraphy at the Cooper Union in New York, and drew all his lettering by hand. His most well-known typeface is Avant Garde, still well-regarded.


Herb had fun with lettering, as his clever Mother and Child logo demonstrates (see link below). I think this playfulness with type was his most important contribution to graphic design; he opened up and allowed himself to experiment, creating work significantly different from the Swiss Modernism of the time. Herb was unfashionable for a while, but is currently very much in vogue.


What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

I wish I had known the importance of networking and making good connections. For decades, I focused on creating beautiful, functional designs and ignored the commercial side of my business. My work was greatly appreciated by my clients, but in retrospect, if I’d had more connections I could have helped many more businesses and publishers. Deborah talks about the importance of networking on page 83 of her book, in the section entitled ‘I don’t know the right people’.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

I have a change of scene, either going out for a walk to nearby Bushy Park or down to the river, or by going swimming. Something about swimming lengths clears the mind, and enables fresh ideas to populate it.


And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

I’d be a walking boot – I love being outdoors and discovering new places and I go stir-crazy if I don’t get my fix!


Links:

https://graphic-designer-richmond.co.uk

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITC_Avant_Garde

http://logolog.co/herb-lubalin/

http://www.whatsyourexcuse.co.uk

Dignity, Always Dignity!

Posted on 12 October, 2018 at 0:55 Comments comments (0)



Imagine the scene: Nunhead Station, 7.30am on a cold, misty Monday morning. I am wearing THE coat. This is double breasted, scarlet, ankle length and has earned me the nickname The General from more than one friend. To accessorize, I am wearing a red and brown velvet scarf and a brown angora pill box hat. I am Julie Christie in Dr Zhivago and I look the business.


The train arrives and the doors open on an already crowded carriage where people are studiously ignoring each other as well as they can given that they are close enough to count each others ribs. There is no space for me so I dash along to the next carriage. Here, I find just enough room for my feet. I clamber in and lean slightly forward, because I have to make sure that the doors can close behind me. The door mechanism starts to beep and the doors slide shut. I've done it! I am on the train so I do not have to wait 30 minutes for the next, equally crowded one. I don't have to hold on because it is so full that there is nowhere to fall and anyway, I can just lean back against the doors. Whoops, a bit shaky there, but no problem because something is holding me back.


It is at this point that I realise that my extravagant and deeply loved red coat is trapped in the doors behind me. And not just a rogue corner, but all the way from hip to hem. I have suddenly switched from Julie Christie to Buster Keaton. My mind starts racing. I know that these doors do not open at any point between here and up to and including my final destination at Blackfriars. I begin to tug discreetly at my coat, but because there is no room, I can't get any real leverage and so the coat sticks fast.  To my mind, I have three options:

1 wait until I get to Blackfriars, wait for people to leave and then tug like fury

2 go to Blackfriars, stay on the train which I know will return to Elephant and Castle where the doors will open on ‘my’ side of the carriage and I can leave, get onto the Tube and make my way to town or if all goes horribly wrong,

3 get to Blackfriars, wait for people to get off, get out of my coat and leave it hanging there.  (Obviously, this would cause a possible manhunt as they try to find the body to go with the coat, but this is a minor consideration.)


The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that there is not an option 4) ask for help. I want to be inconspicuous - well, as inconspicuous as someone dressed like an extra from War and Peace can look. Being seen as someone with an eccentric style of dress is one thing; being seen as someone who can't even board a train without making a complete hash of it is another thing altogether.


So, here I am, still on this train. Just in case drastic action is called for, I have transferred my gloves and tissues from my coat pocket into my handbag. We pull into Blackfriars Station and draw to a halt. People rush off the train and hurl themselves at the ticket barrier. I stand coolly aloof, as if elbowing my way through the hoi polloi is beneath me. When the coast is clear, (and against the clock – the train is due to go the other way any minute), I grab the back of my coat and pull. It moves about an inch, which is promising. I just need to get a bit more leverage, so I plant my feet about a foot apart, take a firm grip with both hands and give it a damn good yank. Voila! Like a hero from a boy’s action story, with one bound I am free. Or to be more exact, with a hefty tug, my coat releases from the doors and I catapult across the carriage and out of the train doors like a shot from cannon.


My tango training (I knew it would come in useful!) allows me to stop the momentum dead and as I do, the doors of the train close behind me, ready for its’ return journey. I take a deep breath and walk purposefully towards the barrier. Aside from a long dirty black mark on the back of my coat, I think I have pulled it off and the words of Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain run through my head – “Dignity, always dignity”.


And the life lessons to take away from all this?

1 have several solutions, however silly, up your sleeve

2 always keep your cool - other people won't know how you are feeling

3 often, in fact most times, things never turn out as badly as you expect.

Who was your Favourite Teacher?

Posted on 4 October, 2018 at 4:50 Comments comments (0)


Most people have a favourite teacher, that person who lit a spark, opened up new possibilities and has remained an influence.  Mine was Miss Teagle, tall, slim, in sensible shoes and tailored suits in safe colours with discreetly patterned blouses.  Her accessories were neat and her only concession to ornament was sparkling brooches.  She had white hair in a Queen hairstyle (I’m talking British monarch, not Freddie Mercury, you understand).  She was somewhere in her late 50s, or early sixties. 


Miss Teagle taught English and at 10 years old, I was a poet manqué writing ditties about birds and dew drops and daffodils – you know the kind of thing.  It was dismissed as a phase by most teachers, or even completely ignored, but not by Miss Teagle.  She delighted in words; the sound of words, the look of words, the power of words, words which made you laugh, learn and think.  She didn’t worry about how bad the spelling, punctuation or grammar was because what she wanted most was your imagination.  We did learn how to write properly with her, but I’m not sure when it happened as she had a skill of disguising serious matters with a veneer of fun.  For me, this was a huge gift because I am dyslexic, although, as this was many years ago, it wasn’t diagnosed as such.  I was just someone who couldn’t learn to spell and got told off for getting my letters round the wrong way to the extent that I became frightened to write.  Miss Teagle freed me from this fear, encouraging me to write with abandon and sorting out the spelling later.


Miss Teagle made us write poems, book reviews and stories, and every week she would read one of them out, always from a different child so that no-one was left out.  It wasn’t until years later that we actually recognised how scrupulously fair she had been, making sure that everyone had their little moment in the limelight.  At the time, we just knew that we all wanted to be picked, to have her praise because as she read the story, she would always point out exactly what was right about it, even if only one tiny thing, that she could highlight to us all as a positive.  She used these positive points to teach us about styles and language, but probably more importantly, to encourage the writers.


We were not a class of prodigies, just normal 10 year olds who on the whole didn’t want to be at school and who were already getting used to a hierarchy where the clever ones got encouraged, the “stupid” ones got told off and the ones in the middle were overlooked.  But to Miss Teagle, we were all equal, with something valuable we could talk or write about – all we needed was someone to listen and to guide us.  We came out of her class with an understanding of the power of words, that if we read widely, we could learn anything we wanted and that we could open up new worlds for ourselves.


Of all the things she taught us, the most important was that she gave us the power to think and to dream, to realise that we all have potential to be creative in some shape or form and we just need some support and encouragement.  Her lasting influence on me is that this is what drives me in my work with my clients. 


Who was your favourite teacher?  What made them special?  And how might you tap into / emulate that to support your creative practice?


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