Five ways to get through the darkness of Winter to find motivation and creative inspiration.

As we head into February, there is still one month left of Winter before we emerge into the warmer days of Spring, here I share some sure-fire ways of how to get through it when we often want to hibernate...

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We are finally at the end of what feels like the longest January, ever, in the UK, and whilst we are all grateful to be heading into the new Month of February, Winter is not quite over yet and I know many people would love to curl up and hibernate right now.

But unfortunately, life’s not that simple is it? We are not dormice, or hedgehogs, we are humans that need to get on with things, and so this Winter whilst still entrenched in the pandemic, we need to dig deeper than ever before to find our energy reserves, keep fuelling a positive, hopeful mindset and actively search for more inspiration and motivation.

If you are someone who gains that fundamental resource from other people, face to face connection, hobby groups, socialising, events like the theatre and concerts, then it is genuinely more difficult whilst still in this lockdown position.

So, what do we do about it, how can we keep inspired and motivated to get to the end of these dark, cold months and emerge into the Spring feeling better and with more hope? Read on to find some sure-fire ways to put a positive spring in your step.

1. Develop a plan to feel more in control of your direction.

Sometimes, when we are in that lack of energy space, this is not our strong point. Even more so for creatives, it can feel too formulaic, and a little scary, but trust me, spending some time thinking the next 3 months through can really boost your confidence, knowing that you are getting to grips with the direction you are heading in, rather than just having ideas floating around in your head. And this doesn’t have to be perfectly laid out on an excel spreadsheet!

In fact, thinking how you work best and playing to those strengths makes a big difference to how committed to this process you will be. So, for example, using coloured pens and mind-mapping it out over the seasons works best for me, and then from that will come a more detailed 3-month plan.

In these unpredictable times, working on a 3-month basis is far less daunting and more realistic, who knows where we will be later in the year? Longer term goals can still be noted, and put on the shelf to be ready when you are.

Also, if you don’t know where to start, there are tons of free planning resources out there, such as these from @josephinebrooks, the queen of ‘Make a Plan, Make it happen’ podcast

2.Throw in some new challenges, and be open to new opportunities.

I think this is especially important right now, in a World that has shrunk and become less accessible in everyday life, it’s important to keep your creativity spark, and that can always be reignited by daring yourself to try new things.

As creative people develop a certain style in their work and become more confident and comfortable, it’s easy to slip into the stream of just doing those things, but what got you to that level of skill in the first place was your curiosity and courage to try.

This is where the magic lies, and we must keep nurturing it in order to not just play it safe and instead, experiment and grow in our creative work.

If you continue doing the same thing for too long, then the passion for our work may dwindle and you become bored doing the same old thing over and over again.

To keep our curious energy alive, especially right now, you may be thinking it would take a monumental effort to challenge yourself at this time, but without trying, we will never know what is possible.

I know in a world that feels out of our control, it may be more tempting to keep small, hunker down and protect ourselves, but it is rising to the challenges where we truly grow in our spirit, confidence, and skills.

Opportunities to do this are everywhere when you look and are open to them.

Take this recent example, I was sent an opportunity from a friend about a self-care art project run by a local Arts Charity. I learned more about the work they do and was intrigued. For the project you had to put together an artistic selfcare proposal, plus send your CV and an Art portfolio.

It sounded great and I thought I could adapt the ‘Guiding word’ work I’ve done recently and put forward a proposal. However, the deadline was the very next day.

Now, I could have easily passed this up, it was short notice, it was something I had no experience of doing before, I had no Art portfolio, or a recent CV for that matter and so it was going to take some work.

But I also knew the project, and the people behind it, matched my values and were doing something that was useful and important, for the benefit of others during the pandemic, and so I got to work and handed it in, just in time.

I’m under no illusion that they’ve probably had many entries, and therefore I am unlikely to get it, BUT what it did for me was several things, all of which were beneficial and a great learning opportunity:

  • Challenged me to have a go at something completely new.
  • Helped me to sum up the idea within perimeters – similar what I used to do with propositions when I worked in Marketing, and so it rejuvenated an old skill.
  • Made me update my visual CV, something I created a while a go with the help of @nickyraby.
  • Made me create an Art portfolio – again, something I’ve never done before.
  • Now I have some templates ready to adapt if an opportunity like this comes up again.
  • I’ve created a new connection with a place I believe in and has similar values to my own, and have expressed an interest in collaborating, despite whether I win this opportunity or not.

       

A few of the images I included in my art portfolio to show a variety of mediums 

There are many places to seek out such opportunities and challenges, here are a just a few:

  • Magazine competitions – e.g., Writers News
  • Instagram hashtag challenges
  • Skills competitions such as the 30-Day Sketchbook Challenge that runs throughout through certain months, but you can join up anytime.
  • Simple prompts based on unique days, such as Valentines, leap year and pancake day in February.
  • Sign up to a virtual hobby group or class, such as @mockingbirdmakes ‘Creative Conversations with Shannon’ or join her Small Business Huddle for a friendly supportive networking group, every Thursday at 10.15am – 11am
  • Follow ‘How-to’ videos on YouTube, see here for an example from my favourite artist John Harrison.
  • Join a virtual choir or collaborative band, if singing or music is your thing.

3. Actively seek new ways to be inspired.

This is somewhat harder than it used to be, due to established avenues of inspiration being closed off, such as art galleries, exhibitions, our hobby groups, shops to understand what the trends are BUT that just means we have to become more resourceful, and find new places to be inspired.

Digital platforms have grown immensely during lockdown, with some areas particularly taking off – and all are a rich source of inspiration, you just have to be careful not to be sucked into the vortex, schedule in some boundaries or you’ll easily lose a day to ‘research’.

Choose where you spend your time wisely. Pick accounts (e.g., Instagram) that pique your interest, match your values, and then get the most benefit, focus on what you are learning, take notes, connect with people, collaborate even, to have the best experience and meet some inspiring people along the way.

An area that has really taken off during this last year are Facebook Groups:

Public Facebook groups are largely free, but you have to request to join (usually by just answering a few questions) and seem to have grown ten-fold over night! These are where you can become part of a specialised community, share your wares, take part in challenges, seek advice and are also a place to be accountable, if you wish, with regular prompts by the facilitators.

Many also do Live interviews, which you can learn a lot from. Here are some of my favourites for small businesses and creatives:

Your Story Matters

Psychologies Connected Community

Holly and Community

Women Who Choose Higher

30 Day Sketchbook Challenge

4. Get outside, for your sanity and creativity.

All the above you may have noticed are things that you can do whilst in the confines and safety of your own homes.

But the one thing I can practically guarantee will bring more inspiration and mental wellness than any of the above, is to get outside and embrace all that Winter has to offer.

I know that can be a challenge in the UK with storms, rain, and sometimes endless fog days but now and again we do get some sunshine and also SNOW!

This happened in Yorkshire recently, and my daily walks took on a whole new magical entity, like stepping into a Narnia like kingdom! It was mesmerising.

 

I can’t tell you what a huge mood-boosting experience it was, the sun on my face and the air so fresh, it cleansed my mind and soul all in one.

I took my friend into the woods too, and all I could hear were ‘Oooos, Ahhhs and Wows’ as we turned each corner.

I took so many pictures that day, fully engrossed in the view before me, which I’ve now uploaded on to my @soothedbynature account. When we are getting so few experiences to see new things at the moment, we can always rely on the power of nature and the changing of the seasons for a pure, visual tonic pick-me-up.

I know everyone’s exercise space is different. You may live in a town or city, but it’s about the adventure and the possibility of seeing new things. For that hour’s exercise, so long as we do it safely, we can walk anywhere we choose, so enjoy that moment of freedom and explore, find the unique images, and use them in your work.

I know of a few accounts - @jfprod, @seasidekate amongst many others that take images of such unusual things on their walks, and they always inspire me, because they have captured something unique.

   

Plus, there are ones that bring us hope that we can visit new places and go on holidays again, @elenapellecchia58 certainly keeps that dream alive for me with her beautiful images of her home village in Tuscany!

5. Keep listening and learning.

On the days when those walks are simply about getting the dog out, being blasted by the rain and wind and not going flying in the mud, then it’s using that head space to learn that inspires me, and makes the walk more bearable!

I don my wellies, gloves and bobble hat and plug myself into a good podcast. You will know from my past posts that this has become a bit of an addiction, but they are genuinely inspiring and sometimes life-changing conversations that we are getting to listen in on, and for FREE!

You can check out my previous post here on my favourites, but I have some more recent selections too, here they are below….

   Creative Women International podcast

This week also saw the return of Holly Tucker’s Conversations of Inspiration, which I must admit I’ve been keeping an eye out for as it is one of my absolute favourites and does just what it says on the tin.

As well as podcasts, I always keep a look out for new books and I’m currently reading Fearne Cotton’s ‘Speak Your Truth’ which as with all Fearne’s books, is a great delve in to how we speak about and learn from our own personal stories, I’m loving it so far.

And finally, when not listening or reading, you’ll find me having a go at something new. Last year I created a 12-month challenge, to try a new creative activity each month, and I’m pleased to say I’ve ticked off January’s challenge to have a go at lino printing.

It’s not as easy as it looks but was great fun and weirdly satisfying, carefully carving out the lino to make your printing design. It’s an imperfect start, but that’s what I always say, it’s about having a go and practice makes progress, not perfection!

I’ve also attempted making some birdfeeders out of toilet rolls, I’m not sure how effective they will be, I hope the birds will come, but it did create a few fun, messy hours, so totally worth it in my book!

Until next time, stay home, stay safe and I hope this will help to motivate you through to the warmer days of Spring.

 Juliet, The Curious Creative x

For more ways to bring creativity into your life, check out my website for a whole host inspiring Blog posts, interviews and resources:

www.thecuriouscreativeclub.co.uk

Or find me on Instagram @thecuriouscreativeclub or Facebook, The Curious Creative Club

 

 

Juliet Thomas, The Curious Creative Club

Creative Blogger, Maker and Accountability Coach, Mrs

Following a 20+ years corporate career working in PR and Marketing, I left to pursue my life-long dream of writing a novel. However, I soon came to realise that I didn't want to focus on just one thing. I'm a huge advocate for all things creative and so I set up a website and weekly Blog to combine my passions of writing, art and photography, to encourage people to live a more enriched life fulled with passion and purpose. I deliver local writing workshops, am the founder of a local accountability group - WOW Wednesdays, produce artwork I sell locally and recently created 10 Instagram Live sessions for @psychologiesmagazine called, 'Gain Creative Confidence' which you can find on their TV channel and Instagram. My Blog focuses on all aspects of creativity, the psychology behind why it is so good for you as well as many practical tips and prompts to get going. My next adventure is to combine this knowledge into a none-fiction book, which will be part-memoir too, explaining how creativity has supported me through challenging times. The website also has a free resource page, The Curious Cave, which allows readers to learn more and further their creative journey through my recommendations of books, magazines, podcasts and other inspiring social media accounts, all to support you on what I know can be an incredible personal journey.