creative

Here’s To The Creatives

Wow. It’s almost eight months since I’ve actually managed to write anything for myself. My workload has been ridiculously heavy of late, with various projects running at the same time. Now that has eased, I can finally sit down and muse over topics that interest me. Today, it was creativity and our children.

Home-Education

Consulting mostly from my home office affords me the privilege of being able to home-educate our youngest daughter. The Dad also is self-employed, so between us, we are able to facilitate a bespoke educational experience for Miss E.

We home-educated our eldest, Miss P, on and off for several years, but by the time she reached 10, she decided she wanted to go back to mainstream school and is currently finishing her first year of high school. It suits her.

Little Miss E however, is an entirely different child.

We sent her to school – a small village primary, of around 46 kids – when she was just four-years-old, with the condition that the first six months would be flexi-schooling, i.e. half days. This worked quite well. Then she progressed to full days. I’ve never seen the spark wither from a child’s soul so quickly.

She became so tired, anxious, nail-biting and bed-wetting very quickly. Compared to her peers, she was simply doll-like. She was a late-summer baby and physically tiny. She looked out-of-place. Then she came home with wet pants. The teaching assistant (who was her full-time teacher and not qualified) refused to let her go to the toilet; said she could wait until break time. Who does that? When a small child says they need to pee, they are literally on the cusp of wetting their pants.

The final straw (along with the poor welfare considerations on a major environmental threat to the school) was when she started pulling out her own eyelashes during the night. I was devastated.

She didn’t return to school.

Creativity, Unfurled

Over the next few years of being at home and learning in her own way, space and time, we saw our child return to her former magical self. She had always been a creative little dot; regularly on the go with some sticky art or gluey craft activity. This returned with a force, and her art took on a large-scale form, with canvases and creations from her own imagination, springing up around the house and garden.

Here's to the Creatives

She often finds a recipe she’s seen – Matilda and the Ramsey Bunch is an absolute favourite of hers – and recreates it. Mary Berry is her cake hero. I wouldn’t think twice about leaving her in the kitchen to get on with cooking or baking. She will occasionally shout through to my office: “Mammy, I’m doing this but what does the measurement look like on the scales? Don’t come in, just tell me where to look.”

She has a maths programme on her tablet, English workbooks and whatever else takes her fancy, we make happen for her. She loves to watch YouTube tutorials on hairstyles, and then practice on me or her sister. She’s pretty amazing. The same goes for art, nail art, sculpture, slime-making…anything creative or art-orientated, she’s all over it.

And luckily, she is able to do that. There is no interruption or time limits to her learning, nor any prescriptive programmes or curriculums to follow.

I’m not saying I’m anti-school; but I am pro individual learning.

The current state of education in the UK is pretty shambolic. No longer do our teachers get to actually teach in order to impart knowledge; schools are centred around tests, tests, more tests, government red tape, and yet more tests. The ongoing budgetary squeezes from the Tory government have impacted subject provision, namely creative studies. The arts have taken an entire battering, marginalised for the traditional subjects such as maths and science.

How then, do our creative children flourish?

How do we help blossom, those kids who are a whizz with mechanical stuff under a car bonnet that would baffle most people? Or those enlightened young artists with a vision beyond most adults’ understanding? Or those children that have a beautiful heart and are true peacemakers? A curriculum does not and cannot provide these life, living and hands-on skills that are so desperately needed in our gloomy adult world.

One size does not fit all. I worry for those children who will grow into adults, never having realised the full power of a creative life, occupation or influence.

Here’s my thoughts on ways to help your child(ren) discover their creative flair – they’re all tried and tested by our household!

Five Ways to Help Children Be Creative

  1. Leave them alone. Seriously, don’t fill their every waking moment with clubs, organised activities and ‘things’. Let them just be. This doesn’t include using digital devices incessantly (see my blog on gadget-free days). Let them be bored. Let them create their own entertainment. It’s valuable learning. Play is wholly underrated.
  2. Be their guide, not their teacher. For instance, if they’re interested in arts and craft, help them to make a box of paints and crafty bits. A dedicated drawer, table or corner, space-dependent, is ideal for them to build their collection of art kit. Inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources: outdoors, museums, old magazines, car journeys etc – use wherever and whatever you’re doing to provide a rich environment for ideas.
  3. Encourage reading. Self-reading and reading to your children. Whatever their age – my mother read to me still when I was 15. If they don’t enjoy reading a book themselves, what about audiobooks? Both of my kids love audio books at night, when reading is not as enticing to tired eyes. An audiobook can carry you away to another world.
  4. Make sure it’s fun. Being creative isn’t a reward-driven activity to elicit praise: it should be about the experience itself and always fun.
  5. Empower your children to be problem solvers. During war years, austerity and rationed goods meant households were part of the ‘make do and mend’ culture. This automatically fostered creativity, purely out of the need to survive on whatever people had. Whilst I’m not suggesting you return to that extreme completely in the present day, there is a lot to be said for parents who fix things themselves. And this battles against the dreadful throw-away culture we live in. Children are then able to learn being creative on practical levels by watching their parents ‘have a go’.

Here’s to the creative ones. The ones who see colour on a dark day. The ones whose perfectly crafted words can comfort, inspire, teach and motivate. The ones whose clever brushwork can create an artwork that can bring people to tears. The ones who play music from their soul to silence an entire room. The gentle hearts that bring peace to others’ disagreements. The ones who have the skills to design, make and fix. The ones who feel it, but don’t quite know their gift just yet.

May they forever add light to the world.

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No Gadgets Day

No Gadgets Day: A Lesson on Living in the Present

Oh, the horror. I woke up this morning and instantly reached over to check the time on my iPhone , only to find the phone missing. Instead, it had replaced by an *actual* alarm clock of the retro, non-digital variety, and this hand-written note:

No Gadgets Day

No Gadgets Day

So the almost-12-year-old had decided that she’d seen enough of her mother wielding phones and laptops of late and had indeed declared a No Gadgets Day.

Hmmm. It’s easier said than actually done, however. Around 98% of my work is online, with nearly all of it requiring an internet connection. That’s a massive chunk of anxiety right there, when not only had all of my bloody devices been confiscated and hidden, but said child had also disconnected the internet too.

I know, I know, Sundays should be sacred and family time and all that jazz, but honestly, my work does not fit into neat little boxes of nine-five hours, Monday to Friday. My working hours are bespoke and varied.

Angst

But OK, let’s go with the No Gadget Day. Deep breaths.

Running mentally over scheduled posts, emails to send/reply to and strategies to complete, panic set in a little. The gadget-confiscating child was being terribly strict and had even got The Dad on-side. I was allowed five minutes’ access to emails only at 13.00hrs and then nothing until the end of the day. At this point, I was feeling a little nauseous.

I’m not a TV person really. I can’t remember the last programme I watched. I occasionally like catch-up documentaries or the like, and I love DVDs and Netflix sessions. I enjoy a silent house too: I don’t always appreciate music on in the background – noise grates on my nerves, especially when I’m writing. But I always have a device of some sort close by.

The house was so peaceful today. No children watching their tablets or iPads, no husband watching morning politics shows, which are guaranteed to make your blood pressure rise. And no phone or Mac to access.

My fingers were instantly itching for things to do. I’m so used to tapping away on my Mac, or whizzing through clients’ social media accounts “just to check”. I rarely use a physical pen and paper these days. It felt really liberating to scribble away on a jotter pad for a while, and I felt the ideas flow better than having a constant distraction of emails and the unending intensity of social media. I had several brainwaves today – I haven’t felt freely inspired like this for a long time. The constant juggling of clients and campaigns can leave me feeling jaded, but having that space away from time-sucking devices was really rejuvenating.

And Breathe

So after a few hours, I finally relaxed. I managed to get a whole load of jobs completed that I’ve been putting off for ages. The children took the opportunity of being gadget-less to play in the garden, while The Dad enjoyed a rare hour of resting in a comfy chair, accompanied by a Sudoku book and coffee. We also enjoyed a walk in the woods, mobile phone-free, and the children followed a quiz trail as we wandered together.

Modern day life has become so reliant and absorbed in technology. It’s not necessarily a bad thing however, but it does need to be monitored before an imbalance arises. I’ve previously written on time management, and I’m regularly checking myself to ensure I maximise my work hours and minimise potential distractions.

It’s all too easy to get ensconced in a virtual, online world where time gets sapped away and real, tangible life passes you by quickly.

I think we’ll be having regular No Gadget Days in the future. Hopefully, I’ll get a warning before the next one though, so I can prepare for my workload in advance!

 

 

Little Red

Little Vermillion-Red Riding Hoodie: A Thoroughly Modern Fairy Story

At approximately 10.00hrs on a Saturday morning, Little Vermillion-Red Riding Hoodie (known as Little Red for short) was helping her mother unpack the Waitrose shopping delivery, in exchange for cold hard cash.

Her mother asked Little Red to pop over to Granny’s house with some raw milk, free-range eggs and organic grass-fed butter.

She reminded Little Red not to stray from the path to Granny’s house and not to forget her iPhone as the Sat Nav would help her if she became unsure of which map route to follow.

Little Red set off, tucking the produce her mother had given her into her hand-spun hemp bag. She skipped happily along, doing her mindfulness practice as she went, and forgot instantly, her mother’s sage advice to remain on the path all the way to Granny’s house.

Little Red suddenly found herself on a not-very-nice estate, amongst discarded burnt-out vehicles and teenage boys trading little clear bags of white powder for large sums of money. Now, Little Red was quite street-wise and knew all about the wheelings and dealings on the streets. She patted her pocket to check if her glittery pink Glock 30S pistol was still there. You know, just for safety’s sake. It was, so she carried on, undeterred.

Reaching the Sheltered Accommodation where Granny lived, Little Red pressed the buzzer to gain access. An unusual deep voice boomed back through the intercom, “Come in my dear!”

Little Red walked into Granny’s flat and smelled a funny smell. It was like a mix of damp tobacco and Pot Noodle. Sitting in Granny’s recliner seat, was a shifty-looking man in a cheap polyester suit, not at all tailored well. Little Red eyed him suspiciously. Where on earth was Granny?

The man jumped up instantly and shoved Little Red onto a chair. He had a murderous look in his eyes and didn’t appear very mentally balanced at all. A small yelp came from the bathroom.

“You’d best tell me the code for your grandmother’s safe or you won’t be seeing her again!” shouted the demonic man. Little Red edged to get up to check the bathroom but the shifty man roughly grabbed her arm and yelled again: “What’s the safe code, child? Tell me now!”

Little Red edged to get up to check the bathroom but the shifty man roughly grabbed her arm. Little Red looked down and saw that the stupid man had in fact, ripped her vintage Guns and Roses t-shirt that belonged to her mother.

He yelled again, “What’s the safe code, child? Tell me now!”

Now, Little Red was not at all stupid. She’d gained a good level six at the end of her primary school SATs, and was rather gifted in many academic areas, including achieving Grade 7 on the tuba. She quickly reeled off a random code (it was actually her library card number combined with the date of her last period) and watched as the shifty man bent down to the safe in an attempt to unlock it.

As quick as a flash, Little Red whipped out the emergency pistol from her pocket. A double tap-tap in the killing zone meant that the shifty man was floored in seconds and Little Red was able to run to the bathroom to assess Granny’s fate.

Poor Granny had been bound with the IKEA shower curtain and the shifty man had cruelly wedged a bottle of Timotei into her mouth to prevent her from shouting for help.

“Oh, Granny! Are you ok?” cried Little Red as she untied her and gave her a hug. Luckily, through all the commotion, the Sheltered Accommodation Warden had been alerted and was helpfully disposing of the deceased shifty man before the laminate floor was ruined. Cilit Bang does not get every stain out, despite what it says on the bottle.

Little Red ordered an Uber from her phone and told Granny that she’d best stay at Little Red’s house for a while, until she felt much better. She bent down to the safe and emptied out Granny’s pension fund of diamonds, pearls and a few blocks of gold bullion that a nice man in Nigeria had sent to her for safekeeping, to take with them.

She also quickly took a selfie with her and the deceased shifty man on her iPhone for her Instagram and Facebook profiles, and also as proof of shot grouping for her next target practice class at Guides. She might even get a new badge for it.

Little Vermillion-Red Riding Hoodie was glad things all turned out so jolly well and she praised herself quietly for remembering her mother’s wise advice:

“If you can’t resolve situations through peaceful discussion, always remember your handgun.” Bless her mother’s wise soul.

 

The End

Five Tips to Help Find Your Creative Writing Mojo Again

And then it strikes. The empty-headed, no-words, holy-shit-what-am-I-going-to-do? feeling. I’ve had my fair share of word-droughts over the years and I know that writer’s block or whatever you want to call it, does exist and is a very real experience. Of course, plenty of people state writer’s block is a nonsense and, *shock, horror*, just an excuse for not getting on with it. To those superior types of people: it’s no excuse when your head is submerged with the equivalent of creative custard and you’ve a looming deadline. And still, no words are forthcoming.

When writer’s block hits you, it hits heavier than the absurdity that ‘Brexit means Brexit’.

What is the best way to release the grip of literary doom? How do other people do it? Whether you’re a blogger, copywriter, marketer or simply anyone who creates written content, then take a look at my tried and tested five *practical tips on how to shake up the creativity again and bring the words.

*No sacrificial animals required.

 

 

1. Take a break. I’m serious. Walk away and leave your desk. If the word vacuum is to be filled, then you need to change your activity to give your brain some space for the neural networks to start firing again. The longer you stare at a blank screen or notepad, the harder it will be to create meaningful content. And the more maddened you’ll get with yourself.

2. Exercise. There is actually a scientific point here. The release within the body of endorphin hormones during work-outs are known to improve mood and produce the neurobiological ‘runner’s high‘ phenomenon. A study by Steinberg recorded a 25% improvement in mood following physical exercise, but the results also demonstrated that exercise had a marked improvement on creativity levels.

Whenever I’m out road-running, I regularly have lightbulb moments for articles I’m writing or words for content creation. In fact, some of these ideas seem so darn great, I smile smugly whilst running. It’s good because it also masks the pain. I’ve previously taken a tiny notebook out running with me, to scribble down these sparkling thoughts, but it got too disruptive and sweaty to maintain. I should really hook-up with a dictaphone.

3. Make a cup of tea. Terribly British, I know! There’s something soothing and ritualistic about making a cuppa. Black, white or green tea – all are packed with antioxidants to boost your immune system. Green tea is particularly good, however, as it contains L-Theanine – a tea compound classed as a nootropic. There is evidence that it can increase creativity and focus, whilst reducing the body’s stress response and anxiety levels – a healthier rival to hitting the coffee pot for your pick-me-up. The herbal brew, yerba mate, is both stimulating and without the crash that coffee can bring following consumption. Author Tim Ferriss attributes yerba mate as his recipe for creativity-on-demand (I’m currently experimenting with yerba mate so I will report my findings in another blog post).

4.  Get off social media. I don’t think this one needs explaining much further. See my thoughts on the deathly brain-drain of social saturation within this article I wrote on Time Management; point 4.

5. Journaling. It’s not just for the heart-searching folk out there. Journaling can be both a powerful and strategic method for boosting focus and creativity. Buy yourself a dedicated notebook where you can keep all of your ideas, thoughts, muses, sketches, goals etc. Life Coach Robin Sharma is a great advocate of journaling to show gratitude and how to inspire and grow yourself as a person. By writing your thoughts down, you’re releasing any worries, fears or anxieties. Thus freeing up thinking space so creativity can present itself. Author Julia Cameron endorses her ritual of Morning Pages – three A4 pages of writing each morning – as an effective writing tool, scribbling whatever comes forth into your stream of thoughts, emptying your head of worries and ‘stuff’, before you start work for the day. It’s like a deep-cleansing of brain clutter. It doesn’t have to make sense and you will be the only one who ever reads it. Try it!

Creative Mojo

 

These are my five top moves to smash the block and kick-start creativity. I’d love to hear yours!

Writing Mojo

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Time management

Have You Got Time? Five Tips For The Freelancer

It’s a daily battle. Time management, that is. I honestly feel like a professional juggler some days, where I have a task spinning in one hand whilst weaving wordy magic with the other.

It all depends on how and where you work too. For the most, I work from a beautiful creaky antique writing bureau, nestled in the corner of a room overlooking our garden. It’s fairly quiet, aside from the odd offspring meandering through to the kitchen on the hunt for biscuits or toast. Or a bouncing Springer Spaniel, demanding cuddles and/or food.

The Husband has his own garden office in a converted garage, where I used to work from. The co-sharing of a small space became claustrophobic after a while and I hastily retreated back to the house. He is currently busy designing me a She Shed so I can be totally immersed in my own space while I work.

So how do you maintain the work-life balance and maximise the use of your time if you’re a freelancer or work from home?

Time Management

Here’s my five top tips on how to stay on top of the day-to-day grind:

1. Clear Your Space

If your desk looks like a discombobulated shambles, it’s time to clear out. Keep only the essentials you really need and ditch the clutter. It will make an enormous difference to your productivity and therefore your time management. In one study, scientists at Princeton University discovered that clutter within a workspace had a negative affect on the brain’s ability to process, resulting in an increase in stress and disorganisation of thought.

 

Time management

2. Schedule

Daily scheduling of my own time is really important to me. I plan a full week ahead with my diary. I also review daily for the following day, to prepare for any meetings, deadlines and client contact. Writing tasks down in a schedule commits them to paper, and they are more likely to be completed. Life coach Robin Sharma often says: “The things that get scheduled, are the things that get done.” I agree! Get it scheduled and get it done.

3. Listmania

Do you like lists? I love them. I need lists in my life to keep me ordered. I even have lists to remind me where my other lists are (I really don’t, but you can sense my need of listing-to-live!).

To-do lists are an incredibly mighty tool. They’re not merely a simple scribbling on some paper. No, to-lists are a power-packed method of emptying your head onto paper, of all the tasks you need to do. Like Feng Shui for your bonce. Thus freeing up brain gigabytes for more taxing chores. Keep on top of your list though, and actually complete the tasks, rather than just adding to the bottom of list. Make your to-dos, ta-das.

Time management

4. Social Media

As someone who spends a massive amount of time on social media for clients, I know only too well how time-sapping it can be. It can be tricky to use it for business purposes, without quickly getting drawn into posts and friends’ trials and tribulations of life. But try! If you use social media for yourself or clients, use your time wisely and stick to your planned posting and activity, or you’ll risk being sucked smack-bang into the middle of an ‘OMG! U OK hon?!’ style post.

5. Take Breaks

Move away from the screen, people! If you’re sat in front of a computer for your job, you need regular screen breaks or your eyes may peel off. Obviously they really won’t, but staring at a screen for any length of time is not good practice. Find out when your concentration levels start to wain and then move. Pop to the loo, do some yoga stretches, make a cup of tea..anything to break the brain-drain of protracted computer work.

And here endeth my tips for today.

Get in touch – I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a line at claire@write-type.com

 Photography by Uroš Jovičić

 

The Write Type

Claire is a writer, editor and proofreader, specialising in social media marketing, management and consultancy. She has over 15 years’ experience in professional writing, with a wide client portfolio. Claire’s passion is the written word, and helping you to communicate your company’s message and story in the most effective and powerful way.

The Write Type

Hello and welcome to The Write Type!

Welcome to my new website here at The Write Type! I’ve been busy rebranding from my old writing pen name of Precision, to a more up-to-date me. This website is ongoing in its design and content.

You’ll find my blog filled with a variety of writings, from social media-related tips and thoughts, to musings on anything wordy and bookish.

Please feel free to drop me an email at claire@write-type.com if you’ve got any questions.

 

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