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Catching Fireworks

Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching


Choose Your New Year

Posted on 2 January, 2019 at 5:55 Comments comments (0)

This is the time of year when people set their New Year’s Resolutions - getting fit, getting a new job, starting a new hobby, finding love…

A lot of people I have spoken with find New Year’s Resolutions a chore, things which most often fail, which we end up feeling bad about.

I was talking about this recently with a client and asking what they wanted for this next year. They were caught between two extremes. On the one hand, they had a goal which seemed to them too small - to be able to mediate for 5 minutes a day. At the other extreme, they want to write a novel, but they couldn’t see how they could do that alongside an existing and successful creative practice.

She had more or less decided to do neither meaning she would have got to the end of the year in more or less the position which she began it.

This particular client has been thinking about her book for a few years with notes written and a rough chapter outline. The only thing stopping her in this (and in her mediation practice) was her commitment, her choosing that this was something which was important to her.

With my support, she has reminded herself why these things are important to her, why she had wanted to do them in the first place, the changes they will make to her life and her well being. Out of that picture of a new future, she has begun to create a plan, a way of moving forward. She has blocked chunks of time into her diary when she can write, and put a reminder on her calendar to do one small thing a day towards her book.

She started ‘road testing’ some possible ways of working in December, to give her a head start on the year. We are only a little way in, but it is going well so far. She has changed her mindset from, “one day I will write a novel”, to “I am a novelist”. With her business as busy as it is, she possibly won’t have it finished or be ready to publish by December, but she will have it much further along the line that it is at present, a work in progress rather than, in her words, an “epic fail”. And her meditation programme will help to reinforce a mindset of calm and possibility.

How can you change your mindset to support you so that you can choose is important to you for the next 12 months, so that you can look back, on 31st December, having achieved your goals?

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!

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!


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

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.

What Will You Do Today?

Posted on 31 May, 2018 at 10:35 Comments comments (0)

I am a great believer in visioning, goal setting and affirmations. These are all really important things when setting out where you want to go and reinforcing the mindset to get you there.

I know from my own experience that once you start putting your message and intention out into the world that things can line up in your favour. 

However, before you think that I only advocate 'think happy thoughts and all will come to you', you would be wrong.  Once you have your vision and goals in place, you then have to take action. 

Let me give you an example from my own background. 

Many years ago, I was working on the edges of theatre administration and decided that I wanted to get into theatre marketing.  I had no idea of the breadth of ‘theatre marketing’, what I needed to know, how I could learn or how I could get into the sector.  I also didn’t know anyone who worked in theatre marketing.  The only thing I had was a huge pile of programmes from all the shows I had seen in the previous 12 months. 

I went through every programme and made a list of all the people listed in the credits as being responsible for the marketing of each show.  I ended up with a list of 50 people, for who I found addresses. 

I wrote to every single one of them.  The letter was just a polite 'I would like to do what you do - do you have any advice?' type of letter.  I also sent them my very thin CV.  (A side advantage was that I learnt to type as that this was the days before computers - oh yes, they did exist - and so I had to produce 50 letters and 50 CVs on a manual typewriter.)  Oh, by the way, before you think I was an over eager extrovert, I wrote letters because I wasn’t brave enough to telephone. 

I sent the letters off and waited for what I expected might be 4 or 5 responses. 

I got 48. 

A few were very nice letters with great bits of advice, courses to go on, books to read, places to look for jobs.  Most were generous invitations to come in and see them for a chat. 

I spent a very happy couple of months using up my holiday entitlement in odd half days visiting little cramped offices at the top of old theatres to smart swanky suites, and everything in between.

I got to meet some really fabulous, inspiring people.  I heard their stories and listened to their advice.  I learnt so much about theatre and marketing and was able to make some informed decisions about defining my goal and what to do next.  I went to events and met more people. I built up a network.  It was also very good fun. 

After a couple of months, I got a phone call from one of the people to whom I had written inviting me to a job interview, resulting in a year long contract with Cameron Mackintosh, which in turn led to a contract with the Society of London Theatre.  Goal reached.

So, what action will you take today to move you towards your goal?

If you are not sure how to move forward, book a free exploratory call with me to see how we could work together.

You're doing an open studios because....?

Posted on 1 May, 2018 at 10:15 Comments comments (0)

I recently went to an open studios and had a really great time catching up with a few contacts and finding some new artists to follow. It was a very enjoyable experience ... but that isn’t always the case.

Too many times I have been to an open studios and felt embarrassed because I have felt like an invader. The artist was uncomfortable, didn’t know how to talk about their work, or ignored me. I do understand that this can sometimes be a question of confidence, with the artist not knowing whether to speak to people, give them space, or just hide in a corner.

Even if the artist has been forthcoming, again too many times I have talked with artists and left my contact details, not as a coach, but as someone interested in their work. Very rarely has an artist followed up with me directly or online.

I know only too well how much time and effort is involved in participating in an open studios, so not making the most of it seems to me a lost opportunity. And as the person sitting in the studio all day, it would probably make the event more enjoyable if you have a bigger goal in mind, rather than just trying to get through to 5pm on Sunday!

Can coaching help?

I have worked with artists, designers and makers across disciplines who open their doors to the public, to help them get clarity on why/how to make the best of open studios. This often looks at the long term. Where do you want to be? How do you want to be perceived? How does each event forward your long term vision for your creative career? From looking at the bigger picture, next steps become more obvious, such as identifying goals for the event, who you want to come, where you want to promote it. People have put together their action plans, brainstormed new possibilities, changed their mindsets: what you think visitors want before, during and after the event and if you are nervous, how you can be yourself and make the event work for you.

As with all coaching, there is no ‘one size fits all’ as each person has their own individual goals and motivations. If you are feeling challenged by an upcoming open studios, or want to work through how to make the most of it, check out how we could work together and get in touch.