|Posted on 23 May, 2019 at 0:10||comments (0)|
Last week, I got stuck in a lift.
It wasn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds: the outside wall of the lift was glass, overlooking a wide open expanse; the lift never moved so I was just stuck on the ground floor, not between floors; I was only in there for 5 minutes; and the alarm button was extremely loud in a crowded building. Also, I don’t have a phobia about lifts. (Actress Rebecca Front has written about her lift phobia in her book, 'Curious: True Stories and Loose Connections'.)
However, a few years ago, at a time when I was dealing with several stressful situations, I regularly had panic attacks. These were usually associated with being in large, crowded, formal spaces such as theatres, cinemas, concert halls, conference rooms, from which I perceived I wouldn’t be able to easily escape. Luckily for me, no-one ever knew about these attacks, because I got very good at keeping myself out of situations where they might occur. However, trying to deal with this on my own, secretly, over a period of 6 years was going to come to a head at some point and when it did, I went to the Doctor to ask for help. He gave me Betablockers (which in the end I never took, but it was nice to know they were in my bag if I needed them), and sent me off for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. (Interestingly, I also started learning tango at the same time and it was fascinating to see the connections between learning a positive mindset and learning the dance, but that is a whole other blog!)
Over the intervening years, gradually, my panic attacks have subsided. Admittedly, when I go to the theatre, my long suffering friends know I still need to be on the aisle and/or near a door. I have moments when I can feel the beginnings of a panic attack, but I now have the techniques to try to stop it. And on rare occasions, I might have what Rebecca Front calls in her book a panic about having a panic, but hey, it is just part of who I am.
So what is the point of all this soul bearing?
Panic attacks are not pleasant; however, they don’t have to stop you from doing what you want.
How do people cope who do have a phobia of lifts? They take the stairs, live on the lower floors of apartment blocks, specify they can’t be above the 3rd floor when they book into in hotels… How did I cope with my panic attacks? Okay, I gave up on the cinema and theatre for a while, but in my professional life, I had to find other ways around it. I found coping mechanisms.
For example, I had to go to a three day conference for my employer, at the end of which I had to give in a report on current trends, opinions, contacts made. I was anxious but, as I always did, told myself it would be fine. It wasn’t. I went into the first session (aisle seat, back row next to the door) and spent the whole 45 minutes gripping my seat to keep me from running. And I was looking at three further days of this. Something drastic had to be done.
I checked that the speaker notes from all the sessions would be made available by email after the conference. I picked up all the literature which was available. During the coffee breaks and lunch breaks, I worked the room like there was no tomorrow. I talked to as many people as I could, asked them about the sessions they had been in, their thoughts on trends in the sector, their sources of information, collected their business cards… After the breaks, I disappeared into the hotel coffee shop, typed up all my notes and made a list of next actions, things to follow up. For the three days, I didn’t go into another single formal session but still went back to my employer with a very comprehensive report. They got what they needed and I did it in a way that worked for me.
The point is, whether you have panic attacks, phobias or any kind of fear which holds you back, don’t let it stop you. I am not saying, “man up, just break through it” - I know from personal experience that is not how it works. However, again from my own experience, I know that it can be possible to have panic attacks and find ways to work around them.
There is a quote in an interview with Rebecca Front which I love and with which I totally identify: "I don't want to be defined by being scared of things. I want to be defined by all the things that I can do.”
So, what can you do?
|Posted on 13 May, 2019 at 5:15||comments (1)|
Hamish Macaulay is a London based printmaker and painter. His work consistently features landscapes, seascapes or horizons. Combining printmaking, mixed media and digital manipulation, he layers traditional and modern techniques to create fresh perspectives.
I met Hamish through our joint involvement with ArtCan, a charitable arts organisation that supports emerging and established artists through profile raising activities, philanthropic events and exhibitions. In his work, he brings together the coastal and mountain influences of his background growing up in New Zealand with brutalist and modernist structures of his current home in London.
He has exhibited work in galleries in London and around the UK, and also in New Zealand.
In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?
I have just made the jump from being a full-time graphic designer for advertising (and part-time artist) to becoming a full-time artist. Now I can spend all of my time creating art instead of it being a second job done at night and on weekends. I've noticed that since becoming full-time the speed of evolution and production of my art has increased exponentially without the interruptions I had before. I'm so much happier now that I don't have to spend my day working for clients in an agency whilst wishing I was in my studio creating my own art.
Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?
Not sure I could narrow it down to one, but I could give you a list. I love the work of NZ artists Ralph Hotere for his amazing painting and installation work. Gordon Walters for his forward-thinking design-driven paintings featuring abstractions of Maori motifs during the 50s-70s. Colin McCahon for his landscapes and integration of type into his paintings. There's also artists such as Gerhard Richter, Rothko and Mondrian, and architects/designers Erno Goldfinger and Le Corbusier, who have all been inspirational to me throughout my life. The list goes on...
What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?
Sketch down every idea that comes to you at the time. When your head is full of ideas and you don't scribble it down it will disappear. Sketch books are a great source of future inspiration too.
If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?
I haven't suffered from a creative block yet – I have more ideas going on in my head than I have time to develop them. I guess if I did hit a block, I would go back through my sketch books and find an idea I never had the chance to pursue, and evolve that. Usually when I start a new project, the single idea I had started with brings about 10 other ideas or variations that I want to try.
And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?
Type of shoe, hmmm... I think I would be a jandal (you call them flip-flops). Just the thing to stay cool on a hot summers day. And easy to kick off to jump into the sea. I'm lucky enough to currently have a pair that have a bottle opener built into them, so that's a plus on the versatility stakes.
|Posted on 9 May, 2019 at 5:50||comments (0)|
Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels
Did you buy food this week?
I bet you did, whether it was a big, organised weekly shop, grabbing a sandwich as you were dashing between meetings, or something inbetween. Whether you love and savour food or just see it as a necessary fuel, it is something that we all need to survive.
I mention this blindingly obvious fact because I was in Sainsbury's last week (other major food retailers are available) selecting vegetables and I heard myself thinking peevishly, "but I did this last week...".
After I had taken in the ridiculousness of the thought, I noticed that it reminded me of something which a couple of clients had mentioned. In their different situations, they had done some marketing (some online and some face to face) and then had waited for the rush of new clients. Which hadn't happened, at least not to the extent they had expected. They thought they just had to do the marketing/networking once and that would open the floodgates to everlasting business.
They hadn't realised that in the same way that we constantly need food to fuel our bodies day to day, our businesses need the daily (or at least weekly) fuel of marketing to help keep them alive. Like our food, we often need less than we think, but it needs to be consistent and good quality. Whatever your preferred marketing methods, you need to build them into your regular routines, whether it is 10 minutes a day on Twitter, a networking meeting a week, an hour a week on phone calls to contacts. Pick your tools, like your favourite meals, and use them regularly. And now and then, throw in something new to vary your diet or for a treat.
|Posted on 2 May, 2019 at 5:20||comments (0)|
There is a common thread which comes up when I talk to creatives about their businesses. They produce work for clients on time, on budget and turn up for meetings. They have a thoroughly professional attitude towards their clients. However, along the way, they often forget their most important client - their own business.
Marketing, accounts, research, etc., can get pushed down the list in favour of all the things they prefer doing instead and then they find themselves having to do all the other stuff in a mad rush, or it just not getting down at all.
I will happily admit that I used to be guilty of this myself. I would have long lists of all the things I needed to do to which just kept getting longer. Then I would feel guilty about not getting things done which would put my into a bad mood. I got to the stage where I was fed up with my own behaviour and found a neat, simple trick which has proved very successful for me and which I have passed on to clients.
I make appointments to have meetings with my own business. On the first of the month, I have a regular hour long meeting with the ‘accounts’ department where I sort out my monthly receipts, update my cashflow and budgets, etc. Once or twice a month, I meet with the ‘marketing‘ department. And every 2 months, I have a planning day. The key is that I put the meetings in the diary in advance, make sure I have prepared for them and only cancel them if I have actual paid work which can’t be done at another time.
The advantages of this are several:
• it makes sure that I am keeping track of the important aspects of keeping my business running
• it makes sure that I am taking my business seriously
• by seeing the business as a separate entity to myself, it allows me to be a little more objective about it
• when I was starting out, it sounded a lot better to say “I can’t do that day, I have a meeting with a client” rather than “I can do anytime you want”!
So, when is your next meeting with your most important client?
|Posted on 25 April, 2019 at 4:00||comments (0)|
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – either way you will be right”
Martin Luther King Jnr
I have written before about the importance of having a vision. This is really powerful and if you write it down, draw it, or make a mood board, you can read/look at your vision paper whenever you want. But how can you keep it real, as they say, everyday? Particularly on a bad day?
One way is to distil your vision into a few words, an affirmation that means something to you. Your subconscious mind will give you exactly what you tell it. By repeating an affirmation again and again, you will hard wire your mind to think positively and your vision will become more of a reality to you. (Don’t believe me? Have you ever felt a bit bleurgh but have had to mentally gee yourself up because you were going to a party, meeting friends, etc., and didn’t want to be a wet blanket? It’s just the same principle. If you are into musicals, it is just like Deborah Kerr in 'The King and I' whistling a happy tune.)
How do you go about creating your affirmation?
The first place to start is with yourself. This affirmation is all about you, what you want and how you want to inspire yourself. So this is one occasion when the key word is “I”, for example:
• I am a great artist
• I am a successful writer
• I am awash with creativity
• I am a great public speaker
• I love networking
• I am confident
Notice something else about those statements? They are all quite short. These are sentences you want to be able to remember and repeat quickly to yourself, so you don’t want an essay. Also, the subconscious mind likes simplicity.
Did you also notice that all the statements are positive? Affirmations must be done with an upbeat twist. Why? You have to focus on what you do want because whatever you think, your mind conjures up. Don’t think of a blue rabbit in a tutu. Ah ha, I said don’t think of a blue rabbit in a tutu, but I reckon that little bunny is hopping around your brain just now. Blue bunnies are not a problem, but if your affirmation is “I don’t want to be a failure”, it puts the concept of failure into the brain. And be honest, which one is more inspiring:
• I don’t want to be ill
• I am healthy
The last thing about the affirmations is that you put them in the present tense. This is telling your subconscious mind what you want in a way that makes it real. If you say “I will be a successful artist”, there is still a bit of doubt with the “will”. When you say, “I am a successful artist”, you can start believing in it and behaving accordingly, which can give you confidence.
Obviously, it doesn’t matter how much you say something if you don’t put in the work to make it happen. However, if you have the vision, your affirmation is a little language device you can use to keep you on track and give you confidence.
Many years ago, I went to the excellent ‘Best Year Yet’ workshop run by Jinny Ditzler and I created the affirmation for myself: “I am everything I need, to be everything I want”. This has helped me when I want to try out new things and more forward. I also have another affirmation which is at the back of my mind when with clients: “I light the blue touch paper”.
What affirmation will take you to your vision?
|Posted on 17 April, 2019 at 4:15||comments (0)|
The SINGLE best thing about what I do is the variety. As a self-employed person I find all sorts of opportunities come my way. Playing the oboe has opened up the world for me in a way that I didn’t forsee. I’d never have considered going to Hong Kong, let alone the possibility of living there for 3 years which I did in my 20s. I’ve done tours to China, Japan, Qatar, even Siberia, AND I’ve been part of a production of the Tempest at the St Magnus Festival in Orkney, wearing full costume and body make up. I love the fact that I’m able to make a living in such an unusual way, particularly unusual in that instance!
Do you have a creative hero/ heroine, and if so, why?
Yes. Kate Bush. She’s a one off. She has her own style and her voice is extraordinary. She has artistic integrity, she uses literature as inspiration, always putting herself in other people’s shoes because “other people are more interesting than me” (her words). She experiments with sound, collaborating amongst others with a Bulgarian singing trio, Nigel Kennedy and a viol consort: nothing is off limits to her. I saw her in concert a few years ago. She imitated bird song live on stage. Convincingly. There aren’t many artists who could carry that off. The only thing that bothers me is that it’s so difficult to sing along with her because her voice is so extraordinary and mine isn’t.
What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?
I suppose what might have been (and still would be) useful is Rule no 3) of the rules for life from “Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination” by Helen Fielding - “no-one is thinking about you, they’re thinking about themselves, just like you”. That would have been useful to have heard. I’m not sure though, that that really counts as advice, as I think advice is someone telling you to do something. And I’m not sure I’d have taken any advice! Someone said to me just as I was leaving music college and starting to establish myself in the music profession to work out how much money I need to survive and only take on enough work to cover my bills, so that I still have time to practise. I’ve really stuck to that. All the stuff I’ve learnt as a musician, all the resilience to keep going in spite of inevitable rejections, how to be employable, how to find work etc, I’ve learnt as I’ve gone along. I’ve always been someone who learns by doing: I typically do very little research and discover by feeling my way. But that bit of advice has stood me in good stead. It’s kept me prioritising my playing.
If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?
Keep going. If it feels pointless, do the smallest amount that you need to do, a “snapshot” amount of work. Then you’re maintaining the discipline of creativity, and the spark will re-emerge when it’s ready. Also, take time off! I find if I have time off and am at home with time to potter about doing everyday stuff I start having more and more ideas, and if I’m busy working my brain is too cluttered with logistics so there’s no room for anything else.
If you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?
I actually think I own the shoe that is me - or very similar anyway... Suede. Almost a court shoe, but softer and a wedge. Comfortable, but not too comfortable. Elegant, yet casual. And blue-grey or blue-green. A colour you might not think twice about, but when you look again you’re drawn in by it. Why? Understated. You might miss me unless you’re looking for me, you might pass me by. But there’s substance and style there. And an ease about me, but balanced by a certain amount of questioning.
|Posted on 11 April, 2019 at 8:15||comments (0)|
I am often asked about why it is important to have a vision for where you want to be or go in your life and creative career.
I have talked about visioning before and I am a firm believer that if you know what you want, you will be surprised at how often seemingly inconsequential conversations can lead you to someone who can help you or point you in the right direction.
For example, a few years ago, I was in a shop buying stationery. The charming sales assistant commented on my then winter coat, a full length scarlet job with gold buttons, and wondered where I got it. I confessed that the coat had been purchased from the costume department when I was working with English National Opera. (It was worn by the divine Susan Bullock in 'The Prince of Homburg'). She asked if I was a singer. (Definitely not, as much as I would love to be!) Through talking about arts, she told me she wanted to work in films and was writing and creating short videos.
My vision was (and is) to work with creative people so they go off and fill the world with wonderful creativity; her vision was to become a filmmaker. We connected over the coat, I told her about my work and I offered to send her some links which might be useful to her. A few months later, she became a client. A few years on, she is now working as a freelance cameraperson and also making her own films.
However well you plan where to go and who to talk to, how many of us would write down, “find a coach/mentor out of the customers who come into the shop”
You never know who you are talking to, or who they know. Know what you want, get your message out there and you could be surprised at what turns up.
|Posted on 4 April, 2019 at 4:15||comments (0)|
"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." Winston Churchill
When I first went to big school, I went along to a parent’s evening with my Mum. During the course of the evening, a teacher told my Mum that as I was very good at English, I wouldn’t be good at Maths. As a quiet, make no fuss, trusting 11 year old, it never occurred to me to question this sweeping and frankly, unsubstantiated, statement. A teacher, an elder, said it and so it must be true.
Until recently, this “truth” followed me about. Show me a page of text that I have written and point out what you perceive to be errors and I will argue every word with you. Show me where I have written 2 + 2 = 4 and tell me it is wrong and I will take your word for it because, hey, I can’t do maths.
Throughout my career, I have, for example, successfully created and managed large budgets; produced financial reports for box offices; sales reports and analysis for retail outlets; and managed cash flow forecasts for charities and businesses. And what do all these things have in common? Yep, you’ve spotted it – maths.
Now, I am never going to be the Chancellor (and indeed, why would I want to be!), but I can comfortably hold my own with most people on basic, everyday maths. I have even been known to walk around Sainsbury’s adding my shopping bill up in my head, when not being distracted by an urge for their giant cookies (the white chocolate ones - yumsk!). I am actually very good at managing figures and money.
However, any type of maths task has filled me with dread. I put off doing them as they would be “hard” and I would probably get something wrong. When I got around to doing the work, my heart would be in my boots and I would feel vaguely like “I will do the very best I can, but I can’t really do this.”
A few months ago, I was working with a client, helping them put together an income projection for a potential new project. They were very financially savvy so I was quite anxious when they were looking at the figures and I was waiting for the “you got this number wrong” comment. They put the budget down and said, “Yes, that’s about what I thought it would be. Thanks.” It was very matter of fact; they had expected me to do the figures right and that’s exactly what I had done. No fuss, no drama. We carried on with the meeting.
Afterwards,I thought about the stress and worry I had put myself through prior to the meeting about these figures. (And all the other meetings.) Had they been hard? Not particularly. Had they used calculations I had never used before? No. Had I created lots of these projections before? Yes. Then why was I worried? Because I can’t do...
Hold on a minute, who said I can’t do maths? Certainly one teacher, once, a thousand years ago. Then me every day since. But if I had been less distracted by my negative attitude, I would have noticed that I have been knocking off accurate numbers left, right and centre. So now, I have changed my attitude and inner conversation and if I notice a negative thought, I can catch It, check It and change It.
I’m Deborah and I do maths.
So what do you do successfully on a regular basis which you are convinced you can’t do?
|Posted on 28 March, 2019 at 11:10||comments (0)|
Can you remember all the things you have done in your professional career?
I ask because in recent weeks, it is a common thread which has woven its way through client conversations. In the busyness of day to day professional life, we can forget some of the great work we have done in the past, or it has got lost as it was a small part of a bigger project. It could also be that we do not recognise the relevance of what we have done in the hurry of actually doing it.
Every so often, it is worth sitting down with your CV, a blank piece of paper and a pen (or a computer if you prefer) and write down everything you did as part of a particular job / project. (This is relevant even if you are just starting out – look at any extra curricular projects you did at school / university which gave you new skills.) For example, a long time ago I had a post as an administrator with a charity and did all the usual administratory things you would expect. But along the way, under that great job description catchall of “and any other duties...”, I curated an exhibition of Shona sculpture at the Commonwealth Institute and managed large conferences.
Once you have gone through your CV, add in anything you have done on a voluntary basis. Because we do this type of work out of a personal commitment, we often forget to acknowledge what we might have learned. (For example, in my voluntary life, I have developed very good group management skills through chairing boards.)
Okay, we’ve done professional and voluntary lives, what about your life “outside” your professional practice everyday life? Think about all the skills and experience you have there.
Yes, okay, with some of these, you might need to develop the skills further, but you already have a good introduction.
What is the point of doing all this work?
If you want to move into another area of work and need to make an application for a job or project, seeing what you have already done can give you valuable evidence which you can add to your CV / covering letter / project brief, as well as giving you confidence that you have already had relevant experience.
If you aren’t sure which direction you want to move into, it can give you a great overview of options, things you might not have immediately considered. For example, my running conferences could be a great opening for a new career in event management.
Even if you think you don’t have particular experience, you can often find that skills you have are transferrable. For example, you may see a piece of work as successfully creating a piece of sculpture to be installed at a particular gallery on a particular date. In business skills terms, straight away we are looking at time management, logistics, client liaison, resource management, budgeting...
Another important element to all this is that it gives you a chance to sit back and acknowledge exactly what you can do and have achieved to date. You would be surprised how many of us forget just how versatile and great we are on a day to day basis!
Block yourself out half an hour, get a cup of your favourite beverage and do your own skills audit. At the end, read it through then say, “Yeah, that’s me and I’m great!” Then look how you can use all these newly recognised skills to move your practice forward.
|Posted on 21 March, 2019 at 5:55||comments (0)|
With Easter a few weeks away and the sun streaming through my office window, it looks like Spring has sprung!
It's time to open the windows, get some fresh air through the place and spring clean your home. Why not harness the energy of the season and spring clean your professional life?
Here are five tips on giving your career a Spring boost.
1. Take a fresh look at your vision.
Do you know where you want to be in five years? Is your vision still pulling you forward? Remind yourself why this vision is important to you and how you will feel when you achieve it. If your vision needs tweaking, this is a great time to do it so that it is challenging and exciting. If you don't have a vision, get out into the sun and give yourself time to let your mind create your future.
2. Spring clean your space.
Set aside time to go through all your files, drawers, cupboards, etc., in your workspace. It gives you a chance to throw out anything which is cluttering your space, redesign your space and it can also throw up ideas and opportunities.
3. Take a new look at things.
We can all get into a rut, doing things the same way because it is how you have always done it. During the course of a week, check out all the things you do regularly. For each thing, ask yourself "is this the best way to do this? Would another way be more stimulating or effective? Could I even get someone else to do it?" If you are happy with the way it is going, great! If not, how could you change it?
4. Meet new people.
Find opportunities to mix with different people who can inspire and stimulate ideas. They could become clients, collaborators or friends or just spark new ways of seeing things.
5. Refresh your self belief.
Embrace your talents, your passions, your creativity, your drive and develop your positive attitude. If you believe you can do it, you will enrol others in your vision.