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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:

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.

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?

Put On Your Dancing Shoes

Posted on 13 September, 2018 at 11:40 Comments comments (0)


Public speaking hasn’t always been something I found comfortable. I could do it, but I had to work at it to control my nerves.


My natural habitats are the coaching room and the tango dance floor. Those are the two places where I feel most naturally and easily “in flow”. When I am dancing, I feel energised, confident, open to possibility, ready to improvise and able to respond to whatever happens. I am not saying by any stretch of any imagination that I know it all - far from it - but it (and coaching) are the places where I am most centred. I am sure that you also have places or situations where you feel most at ease and those where you are slightly less happy.


I have a neat little trick that I am going to confide to you. As well as the extensive preparation that I do, I have adopted the habit that when I am doing any public speaking or leading workshops, I change my street shoes for tango shoes. These are not highly decorated, sparkly, brightly coloured shoes. To observers, they are neutral and could be “any old” smart shoes. But I know they are the shoes I dance in, the ones I wear when I am doing something in which I feel accomplished. It is not discernible to my audiences, but the shoes make me move in a different way, a way that makes me feel confident and ready for anything. They literally ground me and have helped me to embrace public speaking!


So, what could you take from an area where you are confident and use to give you a boost where you might need it?

Use those post-holiday blues

Posted on 7 September, 2018 at 4:00 Comments comments (0)



The main holiday season is just ending in the UK, so some of you will be returning from your breaks.


If you didn't go away, whenever your last vacation was, just think back to it.


Maybe you went away somewhere exciting and had a really great break, doing lots of things you loved, trying out new foods, meeting new people, having exciting experiences, maybe even being as radical as ditching the smartphone for a couple of weeks ...


Then came the day you were coming back to so called 'normal', everyday life.


As you were sitting in the airport waiting for your homeward flight to be called, or standing at the train station waiting for your train to arrive, or driving along the motorway, was there a little moment when you thought,


"I wonder what would happen if...

- I traded my ticket for another destination?

- I jumped on a train going in the opposite direction? - I took a different exit on the motorway?"


From time to time, I think we all have had a feeling like that, an urge to just get away - anywhere. Sometimes it can be a fleeting urge, sometimes it can become a constant undercurrent pulling at you as you try to get on with life as it is. I have been through this experience - more than once! I used to measure my entire working life from holiday to holiday.


If any of those thoughts came up for you, if there was a moment when you thought about not coming home, think about:

- what was driving that?

- what was it you wanted to avoid - work, relationships, your location?

- if you could have changed direction, where would you have gone and why?


If post holiday blues hit you, I'd invite you to keep these questions in mind:

- what is driving the desire to get away? - what is it you want to avoid?

- where would you go and why?


Think about what you would like your life to be like and create a vision for yourself. And then think what your next steps could be to getting away from a situation/job/life you might not be enjoying and to one that serves you better.

A Life Worth Living

Posted on 27 July, 2018 at 4:45 Comments comments (0)



“To die is nothing; but it is terrible not to live”

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables


A popular technique used by coaches, including me, when helping people to focus on their long term goal is to ask what they would like to have said in their eulogy.


It may sound a bit grim to ask people to think about their death, but it can be a powerful tool to help concentrate peoples’ minds on what they want their legacy to be and what they need to do in life in order for that legacy to happen. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to know what you might leave behind.


Some years ago, someone in my family was diagnosed with a terminal illness. When his illness was first diagnosed, in his mid-40s, I wondered how I would feel if I had received the same news, what would I think, what would I wish I had done? Out of this, I decided the two things I really wanted to do were to visit to Russia (which I did in April 2007) and to try the Argentine tango. Russia was amazing on so many levels and I loved discovering Russian art. Out of the tango, as well as the sheer enjoyment it has given me, I discovered new levels of creativity, improvision and communication, and developed a new outlook, including the confidence to take the plunge of starting up “Catching Fireworks”.


We all make ripples as we go through our lives and sometimes we have no idea of the effect that we have on other people. Therefore, even if you are given to introspection and wonder how you will be remembered, I suspect that you will never really know – you can only hope. All you can do is live as honestly as possible, being true to yourself, your vision and your values. Enjoy the moment and even if you feel you are working in isolation, somewhere, sometime, there is a good chance you will influence someone.


For the here and now, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we are all going to die and alas, it is not always going to be when we are old. If there is something you have always wanted to do, a burning desire or dream that you will get around to “one day”? Well, as long at it is not going to hurt someone else, may I suggest that you just do it?


You only have the one life; ensure that you make the most of it, both for yourself and for all those people you impact on positively, and possibly unknowingly, along the way.

Upward

Posted on 5 July, 2018 at 4:10 Comments comments (1)



"I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward."

Charlotte Bronte


Many years ago, I worked on a theatre production which involved 1 blind woman and about 30 sighted people. At one point, the blind woman had to turn and run offstage, through the throng of people. It kept going horribly wrong and we couldn't work out why. Sure, the blind woman couldn't see where she were going, but why weren't the sighted people getting out of the way?


It was ages before we realised that usually, a sighted person will turn their head to look where they are going before stepping. Even if it is a small, quick movement, made a nano-second before turning the rest of the body, other people will unconsciously pick up this signal and if necessary, move out of the way.


So what can we take from this interesting piece of information? Whether we realise it or not, we go where our eyes take us. Left, right, behind, forward, we look, then we move. But how often do you see people walking along, looking at their feet? Or seeing no further than their phone screen? And as you are watching and picking up their subliminal messages, what does this tell you about that person? I see it in stations every day - people with eyes cast down looking tired, listless and lacking energy, putting long term strain on their necks and their attitudes, bumping into other people, missing what is happening around them.


Then you see someone who is looking upwards - I don't mean head right back and looking straight up, which would give a similar set of problems and would just be silly. No, people who are looking just above eye line, walking out with energy and brio, open to whatever is around them, with a spring in their step.  


Looking upwards is like smiling - if you do it, it can immediately make you feel better and more positive. So if you are out walking today and feeling a bit bleurgh, change your attitude by changing your view. Take your eyes off the floor and look life in the face.