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Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching

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Mistakes

Posted on 7 March, 2019 at 4:15 Comments comments (0)


"You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."

Johnny Cash


I hate making mistakes, of looking 'bad', or like an idiot or of letting people down. Or rather I should say, I hate me making mistakes. If other people do it, I encourage them to see mistakes as life lessons. I always say that the only person who lives a mistake free life is the person who is doing nothing (although that could be their biggest mistake of all).

 

But when I think back on my many mistakes, I have gained a wealth of experience and learning. For example:


My four failed driving tests (devastating to my confidence at the time) meant I had to have more lessons and driving practice and by the time I passed my fifth test, threw away my L plates and finally hit the road, I was a reasonably accomplished driver.


When training as an Image Consultant, I sailed through the first few weeks getting every client right. The only problem was I had absolutely no idea how I was doing it. This was great for the ego but I knew that I had nothing to fall back on if my instinct let me down. Then one day, in front of all my fellow trainees and all the tutors, I got a client completely wrong. But as my errors were explained, my audience could almost hear the sound of the pennies dropping as I finally grasped what the process was all about. At that moment, I became more confident as a consultant.

 

Not making mistakes can also create a barrier between you and others. I was once a secretary to a quite high flying board, made up of CEOs and Senior Management of big blue chip companies. I would write up minutes and then before the next meeting, I would have to phone all these powerful people, chasing them up to make sure they had done their actions. Although individually these were nice chaps, I was intimidated by their positions and found phoning them a real discomfort. Then at a meeting reviewing the last minutes, I noticed I had made a huge, glaring mistake. I prayed no one had seen it. Alas, when we got to it, one of the CEOs pointed it out with great glee.  He was delighted to see that I was capable of making a complete dog's breakfast out of something. It seemed that whilst I was anxious about making the monthly calls to him, he was equally anxious about getting the calls, because he usually hadn't done what he was supposed to, and I, as far as he could see, was always perfect. I found out the rest of the board felt the same.  What for me seemed a horrendous mistake which would ruin my reputation FOREVER actually created a much better relationship between me and the board. Who'd have thought it?! 


We all make mistakes. That isn't a problem. The problem is if you let the mistakes define you, where you create the self image that mistakes = bad person, or hold yourself back in case it all goes horribly wrong. Embrace the mistakes, learn the lessons and move on, a more knowledgeable and experienced person.

 

And if all else fails, just remember what Fred Astaire said: "The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style."

 

How stylish will you be today?

Thinking

Posted on 28 February, 2019 at 4:40 Comments comments (0)



Thinking.


We do it all the time. That little voice is always chattering on in our heads: remember to buy milk; I need to phone that person back; I haven’t checked my Facebook for 20 minutes; I must get this done by the end of the day; yadda, yadda, yadda.


But how often do we give ourselves the chance to think, really think? Thinking as in giving yourself time to really develop a thought. I don’t know about you, but when I was working in a corporate environment, I felt I always had to be seen to be working, tapping away at a keyboard, reading articles, on the phone, doing, doing, doing, when what I really needed was to just stare into space and let my mind wander around a topic. Besides a feeling of needing to be seen to be busy, we have all the digital distractions which compel us to be always connected, terrified that we might be missing out on something.


It is fascinating to see how many of my Take Five contributors talk about going for a walk when they need to get through a creative block, to let their mind wander. Getting the physical and mental space to either follow a thread of thought, or to let lots of ideas come rushing in is very refreshing and stimulating. If walking doesn’t do it for you, or that seems too long a time to go without your digital fix (or you can’t get out of your office), you can use the time it takes to drink your coffee, or wash the dishes, to give yourself a little oasis of calm.


Giving yourself this time isn’t just for getting ideas, but also developing them. Sometimes, because we are busy and need a quick fix, we take the first option we think of. Most times, this is fine.  But if we have the time to let the thought wander, the idea can grow or deepen as we can gain insight. This is what we do in coaching sessions, giving you the space and time to find your own answers and find out what you really think, deep down, about a situation.  


What do you do to give yourself time to think?

Take Five with Marcus McAllister

Posted on 21 February, 2019 at 4:55 Comments comments (0)


Marcus McAllister is a French-American artist managing his international career from his atelier in Paris which he shares with Grom, his adorable dog. His works combine detailed draughtsmanship with dreamlike layers and elements to create fascinating and beautifully atmospheric paintings. Alongside his larger works, he also has a strict sketchbook practice which is the backbone of everything he does. (Indeed, it is no coincidence that in every reference to this practice below, Marcus uses a capital S on sketchbook.) Using exactly the same type of sketchbook every time (he is currently on number 112), the sketchbook is with him always,  with a special binder which is attached to his wrist when he is out and about.


As well as his artistic practice, Marcus is also an Artist Coach through the Be Smart About Art 121 Creative Specialists programme, providing insight from his own perspective as a working artist.    


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

The freedom and luxury of being in my studio. Of course it’s great when I’m there actually getting work done on new paintings, but sometimes it’s more about simply hanging out in my space, looking at my images, reading and listening to music. Maybe I’ll just put on a pot of tea and play with the dog—it doesn’t really matter, what is important to me is being here, in the studio, in my own creative world, as much as possible.


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

That’s really really hard to answer. I’ve been inspired by so many artists, whether through art history or personal interaction. Hmm. If I had to answer with one name, I’d have to say that the artist who inspires me the most of late is Peter Doig. I’m currently intrigued by the way his work combines figurative, narrative elements with painterly abstraction. But to tell you the truth, the real reason his name comes to mind is the resonance I’ve felt from interviews about his work process. He talks about the importance of being in the studio, even when not in productive mode, and the time it takes him to resolve a painting. A painting might have only two weeks of actual labour—actual physical painting—but that work is perhaps spread over a several years. I have gained so much insight and confidence in my own creative work through his interviews.


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

Nothing ever works out like you expect it to, and that’s just fine (even better). It seems like I’m forever learning to let go and let things happen, both in the art-making and networking. Anytime I think I know how things are “supposed” to play out, life throws a curveball. And invariably the result is so much more interesting!


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

Just to do something, anything—some small activity with no pressure for results or utility. For me this is facilitated by the constant presence of my Sketchbook. It’s always in the vicinity, so I try do just do some small doodle or take some notes from a book or internet or whatever might be on hand. My Sketchbook really is my lifeline when my energy gets snarled.


In the worst cases of creative block I’ll take out older Sketchbooks and just turn pages until something pops out at me. Once there the slightest spark of desire it’s so much easier to get things moving again, instead of just staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration.


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

That’s easy enough! I’d be the only kind of shoe I really care about: a black leather, rubber-soled work shoe. Solid and ready for anything!


LINKS:

http://www.marcusmcallister.com

https://www.facebook.com/Atelier.Marcus/

https://www.besmartaboutart.com/1to1programme#provider-31


Happy Valentine's Day

Posted on 14 February, 2019 at 3:30 Comments comments (0)



"Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world."

Lucille Ball


Wherever you look today, there are Valentine’s Day cards, chocolates, menus, flowers, champagne, meal deals, jewellery, perfume, … all the things you need to declare your love for your partner.  (Although I’ve found a big hug and “I love you” works just as well as baubles, but then I’m not trying to sell a product.)

 

In the middle of all the proclamations of love to others, are you remembering to love yourself?

 

I don’t mean loving yourself once you’ve lost that weight, got that promotion, found that man, sculpted those abs.  I mean loving yourself now, even with all those little flaws that probably only you see or care about.  It is about treating yourself with self respect, compassion, kindness, affection, tenderness, all the qualities you would bring to your relationship with your best friend.

 

Sometimes people have problems with loving themselves, thinking it is selfish or arrogant.  But in fact, it will make you more confident and happy and that can only impact positively on those around you.  It can help you to achieve your goals and dreams.

 

So how do you do this?  Well, better people than me have written countless books on this, but for starters, you can take a leaf out of Queen Latifah’s book: “When I was around 18, I looked in the mirror and said, 'You're either going to love yourself or hate yourself.' And I decided to love myself. That changed a lot of things.”


And yes okay, why not buy yourself some flowers to celebrate loving yourself?

The Begin Book

Posted on 7 February, 2019 at 7:25 Comments comments (1)


I have a ‘Begin’ Book which I use to start my day. It started by accident.


When I was going through the coaching process to find a route to my new career (leading me to where I am today), my late coach, Cherry Douglas, encouraged me to find and keep anything which set me thinking about possible new careers. These include postcards, images from magazines, phrases from job descriptions, feedback from colleagues, headlines from articles. There were thought provoking, inspiring or just things I liked the look of. The idea was to keep them with no judgement and every so often, pull out 2 or 3 at random to imaging possible new careers.


When the exercise of collection was over, I was left with a couple of box files of material. Some I was happy to let go of and it went into the recycling bin. But other pieces had a longer lasting resonance and I wanted to keep them. They would help to remind me of my aims for my new career and focus me on a daily basis.


I bought a spiral bound scrapbook with hard covers - at first, this was just from the aspect of longevity and ease of use, but I soon discovered another purpose. I could open the book at any page and stand it up on my desk. The book also has a ribbon tie and that has added to my daily ritual.


When I get into my office every work day, I undo the ribbon tie and open the book at random.


I stand the book open at those pages next to my desk and these pages create the context for my day.


If I lose my rhythm or motivation, I can look at the pages and remind myself of my daily context. It gives me a boost, a refocus. And if I am really stuck, I can flick through the book or check the pitch at the back of the book where I keep thank you letters from clients.

 

At the end of the day, I close the book and retie the ribbon. (As a solopreneur, this is also a useful physical reminder for starting and ending my work day!)


It is a simple tool, but one which helps to start my day and keep me on track.


If you need support in getting started and keeping on track, get in touch and see how we might be able to work together.

Life Lessons Over Lipstick

Posted on 31 January, 2019 at 5:00 Comments comments (0)



 

Who have been your major positive influences, who have helped to shape you in ways you never realised?


It is the late 1960s. I am sitting watching my paternal Grandmother, Victoria, putting on her makeup. This is the first time I have been allowed to do so. She will be dead in a few months, so unbeknownst to both of us, it will also be the last time. Grandma is the only woman in my small 8 year old world who wears makeup. She is in her late sixties, but has a timeless glamour with her brilliant red lipstick, hennaed hair, whip thin figure, style and elegance.


Her morning transformation is my first real encounter with what it is to be a ‘glamourous’ type woman. As she applies face powder and tea rose perfume (the aromas of which still conjure her up to me), I ask lots of questions, like why should women wear makeup and worry about their outfits?


“Because,” she says, “a woman should always be ‘finished’. You never know who you are going to meet during the course of a day. It could be the person who could change your life.”


"But," I ask, "why makeup, why stick paint all over your face?"


“Because to get on in this world, a girl has to be seen to be pretty or intelligent.”


Taking my chin in her hand, she looks at me intently and says, “And you, my dear, will have to be very intelligent.”


At the age of 8, none of this means a lot to me (although I know enough not to recount this episode to my mother.) For one thing, I am a tomboy whose greatest ambition is to be a cowboy, and cowboys have never struck me as needing to be either pretty or intelligent. However, as I grow up, reach my late teens and start getting interested in being female, subconsciously I start taking Grandma’s advice. I try to dress as well as my budget will allow and even when I’m being casual, always make sure that I am “finished”. This has stood me in good stead when I have been called to a job interview with 4 hours notice or have met someone at a casual event who turns into a future client. (By the way, I am not saying women 'should' wear makeup - it is about finding your own definition of what gets you ready to meet the world.)


I have also taken the intelligence bit to heart, keeping an open mind and a willingness to learn. When I got the results of the degree I undertook in my 30s, my first thought was for Grandma. I think she realised that I was like her in many ways. She was a strong, self-reliant woman who never let circumstances beat her, who was always looking on the optimistic side and who, if something went wrong, would brush it off and move on to the next thing. Abandoned by her husband and left alone with their baby, she went from crying on finding a coin in the gutter because it meant she could buy food for that night, to owning her own house. She never saw a reason why being a woman would have to stop her doing anything she wanted (although pragmatic enough to know that sometimes, it paid to play by 'the rules' of the time, hence the pretty or intelligent comment).


I think she was aware that I would not, as an 8 year old, get upset and take to heart, negatively, what she had said.


But I do wonder if she knew exactly how much what she said would shape my life and who I am.

Take Five with Zoe Whishaw

Posted on 23 January, 2019 at 7:00 Comments comments (0)



Zoe Whishaw is a Commercial Photography Consultant & Mentor who works one-to-one with photographers at all stages in their careers, across all genre, providing bespoke advice, strategic guidance and on-going mentoring support to help take their business to the next level. She has worked with and commissioned photographers for over 25 years analysing, developing and critiquing ideas and photography intended for commercial and editorial use across a broad spectrum of subject areas and genre.

Zoe comes from a family of artists and musicians enabling her to understand how creative minds cope and adapt to the trials and tribulations that are an inevitable part of their lives. She graduated as a scientist alongside developing a love for black and white photography and the magic of the darkroom. Her career then spanned 17 years at Getty Images from its earliest beginnings through to it becoming the global media content agency that it is today, before taking on senior creative positions at Image Source and Gallery Stock before concentrating on her work as a mentor to photographers.


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

I help people gain confidence about their work. Specifically, it is probably the ‘ah-ha’ moment I get during a consultation with a photographer (during which we explore in detail their work and practice) when the jigsaw falls into place and the delight I see in their face as they see clarity in expressing their motivations and ideas behind their work.


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

It would have to be my father, the painter Anthony Whishaw RA, who is so utterly dedicated to the difficult process of expressing his ideas and experiences through his paintings. His motivation, unswerving focus, independence, humility and need to understand himself through his work is an inspiration.


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

After graduation, it would have been helpful to know that the quest to find my dream career would take many unexpected twists and turns with bumps and knocks along the way, but as a consequences I would become more robust and insightful… and ultimately more content.


I also wish I had not been so fearful of the term ‘networking’ and wished someone had just told me that being yourself and showing some vulnerability in a social situation was more important than any pretense at being someone you’re not.


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

Do something different: it might be the place you usually think up ideas – go somewhere completely different; a place you have no association with, and give yourself a tight timeframe to think. Indeed, consider doing something opposite to what you usually do to see what happens. Getting out of the creative doldrums can often come from unexpected maverick behaviours so allow yourself to be playful and less focused on what you expect the outcome to be.


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

I’d be a wellington boot; durable, reliable, unpretentious, wonderfully practical and not afraid to get stuck in!


Links:

http://www.zoewhishaw.com

Have a Good Scream!

Posted on 17 January, 2019 at 5:10 Comments comments (0)



I have a friend who screams under bridges.


This is not some kind of phobia, but something she does when needed as a stress buster. On her walk home from work, she passes under a railway bridge. If she times it right and there is no-one else about, she waits until a train goes over and screams. The noise of the train under the echo-y bridge is far louder than she could ever be, and she finds it a brilliant release of any stress she has built up during the day. Once the train has gone, she continues her walk home refreshed and ready for her family.


Another friend of mine say he gets the same release from going to football matches and shouting for his team (or at the referee!).


In both cases, it is as much about engaging the whole body as it is about the noise.


If you aren’t in a position to actually shout, but want to get the same release, an actor taught me a technique which can be used to quickly lessen tension.


  • Take yourself away somewhere private (a lavatory cubicle is perfect)
  • Plant your feet firmly on the floor so you are really rooted to the spot
  • Tense up all your muscles through the body as though you are going to unleash the most unholy scream you can imagine
  • Take a deep breath, open your mouth wide and “mime” a scream from deep in your diaphragm, expelling all the air
  • Basically, you do everything you would if you were screaming, except produce a noise.
  • Make the “scream” as prolonged as you need and then totally relax every muscle.

 

Repeat if necessary.


This may sound a bit bizarre, but I have used it myself in the past and taught it to many people who have found it a very beneficial quick fix.


If you want to work on the issues which are making you scream, perhaps I can help. If so, get in touch for a chat.

Abundance

Posted on 11 January, 2019 at 0:35 Comments comments (0)



Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.

Buddha


11 days into January and how are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions?  That bad, huh?!

 

Last year, I made a list of things I wanted to do; create more work, learn as much as possible, make new friends and contacts, read, dance, visit galleries, exercise, etc, etc.  I had it all set up with goals, timelines, action points. Gosh, it was impressive, but in order to get everything I wanted done, it seemed I would have to timetable my life down to the last second. By 3 weeks into the shiny New Year, I realised there was no way I could keep up with my clever plans and all I had done was created about 30 sticks with which to beat myself.  


Now, goals and action points can be really useful, but sometimes they can become the focus rather than the tools. You can find yourself completing your actions successfully whilst losing sight of what you wanted to achieve in the first place. I would say that most often, what we ultimately want to achieve is a state of mind, such as happiness, balance, security, independence, well being, accomplishment.  


When I recognised this last year, I immediately threw out my New Year’s Resolutions and decided that I would concentrate on just one word, which for me was Abundance. This covered so much – abundance of time, friendship, money, energy, balance. I lived my life within this context during the year and at the end of it, I had had a successful business year; written a book; created new collaborations; made loads of new contacts and had new clients. By living in a mindset of Abundance, I felt I had enough of all the things I needed to achieve all the things I wanted. I didn’t get quite as stressed out by self imposed “oughts” and “shoulds” and found myself open to all kinds of opportunities which I never expected.  


This year, I am keeping Abundance as my word and adding Forgiveness – forgiveness to myself for the days when I get a bit too action led.  


What is the word which will inspire you this year? And if you can't find it, perhaps I can help.

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?


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