Why being interested in ALL THE THINGS is actually a good thing

Discovering, a couple of years ago, that I was a Scanner, was a turning point in my life.

If you’ve never come across the word in this context before, alternative names include Renaissance woman/man/soul, polymath, da Vinci personality, multipassionate, multipotentialite, and some that are less complimentary – dilettante, flake, Jack-of-all-trades, fantasist.

Barbara Sher, who coined the term Scanner, goes into it in much more depth in her books, but the gist is that it’s someone who has many interests, usually moves jobs often, can’t seem to settle on one thing to do and who has ideas all the time, and frequently leaves projects seemingly unfinished.

I’m not normally one for labels, but I’d struggled for years with my many, many interests, and my attention span waxing and waning depending on what I was doing, but also on when I was doing it and what other things were currently on my radar. I had more hobbies than the rest of my group of friends put together, and found it utterly impossible to stay in a job for more than 18 months or so without being bored to tears. By the time I was 24 I had a CV which spanned as many pages as my Dad’s did – he was 66 at the time.

Even the line dancing I adored, I stopped once I’d reached a certain level. I qualified for, competed in and placed in the World Championships in Nashville in 2000, and it has taken me fifteen years to rekindle my love affair with line dancing. I got what I wanted out of it, and then I quit. (Though I’ve worn cowboy (girl?) boots ever since I was nine.)

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Modern Western society expects us all to be specialists, and to choose one thing to do for the rest of our lives. Even at 16 I raised eyebrows by choosing English, French, German and Physics for my A levels. So many people told me that I should have taken another Humanities subject. I’d have taken something arty (photography or textiles or something like that), but I was told at school, repeatedly from childhood, that I was academic and not creative. So I did what I could at the time, while dreading the thought of refining my choices even further.

My tendency to stop completely and move on, once whatever I was doing ceased to be interesting or fun, has been frowned upon over the years too – because in our society, whether at work or at play, quitting is seen as giving up, as being unreliable and therefore as a bad thing. I couldn’t understand why people would continue with all sorts of things, most of which were either supposed to be fun or which took up a considerable chunk of precious life –  work, relationships, hobbies, projects – long after they stopped enjoying them.

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Discovering blogs (or weblogs, as they were known in the misty recesses of 2005) was a revelation – here at last was somewhere where I could write about and share the day to day stories of being me, of everything I did – and instead of simply recording it in a diary, I found likeminded people! Other people’s writing, blog comments, forums for incredibly niche hobbies like collecting model horses – for the first time, no one judged me for having a series of bursts of enthusiasm for something, then taking a break and returning to it later.

(A vaguely relevant side note – I found it hilarious when people started extolling the virtues and wonder of internet dating, and meeting people online, a few years ago – because these were the same people that gave me repeated lectures on how stupid I was to go to London to meet new friends I’d met online through my hobbies… whether Wheel of Time fans, model horse collectors or photographers. My first internet meetup was with Chloe in London when I was 19, back in 2006 – and it was apparently far from normal to do that then. She’s now one of my dearest friends. Who knew something held in such suspicion would become so mainstream so fast?!)

Regardless of the type of project, idea or pastime, I followed (follow!) a pattern of sorts – I’d have an idea or something would pique my interest, I’d research it a bit and decide I wanted to learn about it or learn to do it. I’d do some more research, meet some people who already did it, buy some things related to it (craft materials, jewellery tools, small collectable resin horses, typewriters…) and then throw myself into it with an all-consuming passion. Until the next thing caught my attention.

An example – at the time I write, I have just found the new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series. I ADORED MLP when I was younger, and had avoided the new style ones in case I hated them. Then I saw an episode on YouTube and am now devouring the first and second series on DVD, while scouring shops and the internet for MLP memorabilia to keep on my desk, pin up in my studio, and hang from my handbag.

I’ve driven both my (now ex) partners and my parents, and probably my friends too, up the wall for decades with my wild enthusiasm for a new project which dwindles into inertia just as they’re starting to come round to the idea of me having chosen My Thing, at last.

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So after the best part of a decade of doing this and blogging, and trying to justify my inability to choose or find that One Thing to do with my career and free time that was supposed to keep me interested for the rest of my life, I found one of Barbara Sher’s books in the library.

And I read it, and I cried… because there at last was proof that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t a flake and that I wasn’t broken. I just had a different kind of brain – and there were other people out there like me.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I’ve actively sought out other people who get it, though the majority of people I know still don’t. Which is ok – we’re just wired differently! Lots of the solopreneurs I now count among my dearest friends (the internet is a properly magical thing!) are also scanners, and we’re learning how to make our personalities work with our businesses rather than forcing ourselves into a box.

When I find a new thing, the time I spend engaged with it varies – from a few days to a few years, and I am never without several things on the go. (if I’d had a £1 for every time someone asked me how I fit so much in and follow so many hobbies, I could probably retire tomorrow). And I have a noticeable cycle, though the timing isn’t consistent – generally, if it’s something I discover and like enough to chuck myself into it, I make friends within it and then continue to return to it after intervals, throughout my life.

Examples of these include collecting, painting and showing model horses; my car Poppy and the club I belong to through her; roller skating (started at age 6 and I go through phases of being addicted to it every few years); horse riding; jewellery making; papercraft and scrapbooking; customising shoes and clothes; reworking the interior of my home; sewing; camper vans; cross stitching, baking, wanting to write a book… the list is endless (almost literally).

The only things which are consistent are writing and photography. Which brings me to the heart of this post.

When it became apparent at an absurdly early age that I was going to write, and read, far more than I was going to do anything else consistently (the photography came later), it’s been suggested repeatedly that I should be an author and write books, or a journalist and write articles, or a travel writer, or [insert traditional writing-related-job here].

And they’re all good ideas on the surface. But the trouble is, I don’t want to write whole books (well, I do, but I know myself well enough now to know that completing more than one is highly unlikely – the kick I’ll get when I finish Unfurling is highly likely to be enough for me to move onto something else instead of writing a second book).

I don’t want to dive so deeply into one subject that I don’t have time or energy left over to explore all the other amazing things out there – which, if I pursued a traditional writing career, I would have to do. Even journalists, who write short to medium articles instead of whole books, usually specialise in a broad topic – business, or travel, or cookery, or lifestyle.

And while thinking about my blog, and where it’s headed over the next few years, and how I got into blogging in the first place, it occurred to me that it really is the perfect place for my scanner personality to develop, grow and flourish.

It takes the two things I do naturally and consistently, and applies them to the ever-changing series of things that I do equally naturally, but much less consistently. I can write one-sentence posts, or 2,000 word epics like this one – and I get to choose, rather than an editor.

Since I very first started blogging back in 2006, and in a more structured way since the inception of Ducking Fabulous in 2010, I have used my very own space on the internet to record, write, think out loud and muse about life, learning and all the things that catch my fancy.

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To explore and investigate my passing enthusiasms, catch ideas I’d like to follow up in the future, and record my journey through learning and practising and discovering. It gives me a self-made library to refer to when I come back to something I’ve done before, and means I have tangible evidence of how I’ve improved, changed, or grown in a particular area.

Through my writing I’ve learned to give myself permission not to finish things, and to hop, if I want to, between interests. I allow myself to stop doing things if they’re not working – a complete antithesis to the previous generation’s work ethic, which tends to be along the power-through-and-keep-going-even-if-it’s-hard-and-it-should-be-worth-it-in-the-end lines.

Credit is also due to the rise of blogging in popularity and as a career choice – I no longer have to explain what a blog is, and it’s the best excuse I’ve ever had for trying out new things – all in the name of fresh content for my lovely readers. Yet this blog, seemingly uniquely for a blog that supports a business, is still very much my little space on the internet. I’m forever reading articles which tell you what you must and mustn’t do in order for your blog to be businesslike, or relevant, or grow your readership… and I stand by my belief that a blog is the equivalent of your home online.

I want people to see me for who I am, and if they resonate with me and like my writing, then some part of my business will probably be a good fit for them. Whether it’s jewellery, tarot decks or courses depends very much on them and what they’re looking for.

I’m trying this year for the first time to schedule my posts and write them in advance, and while it works for some types of post, it’s failing miserably for others. Like these. I need to write them when the inspiration strikes, and then I want them out there so I can have the conversations they spark while the subject is still fresh in my mind.

So what about you? Are you also a scanner, or beginning to realise you could be one? Let me know in the comments (or email me if you’d prefer it not to be public) – I’d love to know.

With love and unicorns,

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Popping my (Hogswatch) cherry

The last weekend in November is Hogswatch.

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(for the uninitiated: Hogswatch is Discworld’s equivalent to Christmas. Discworld is Terry Pratchett’s alternate universe. Wincanton (a real town in England) is twinned with Ankh-Morporkh (a fictional city in a fantasy universe) and every November, a bunch of, in Terry’s words, bloody loonies descend upon Wincanton to celebrate Hogswatch. Clear as mud?!)

Though some of my friends go regularly, I’d not made it last year as it was my parents’ 40th anniversary. This year I was nervous but exc;ited – and hadn’t put a whole lot of planning into my costumes. I knew I was performing twice, and one of those involved chip packets.

So after a 3.30am alarm, staggering out of the house (watched by some very confused cats) at 4.20am and a 3 and a half hour drive, I arrived in Wincanton. Threw myself at my Travelodge room and slept and slept and slept.

At 10am, I found myself at the Memorial hall with Annastasia, surrounded by fellow loonies in outfits and costumes  varying from mild to extreme, and I couldn’t stop grinning.

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We taught a burlesque workshop to seven brave ladies and one extremely brave gent. Our chosen music, to match the theme of Going Postal, was… no, not Return to Sender, or any of the usual suspects. We went for Postman Pat.

Then I could wander to my heart’s content (and also packed in meeting Anna’s parents, the Boggises (who have long been heavily involved with Discworld and Hogswatch), long chats with new friends and some shopping, as well as a sneaky nap after lunch.

Come 5pm, I was in the green room, taking fuzzy but excited pictures of myself:

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And then we got up on stage and danced. And oh, I had forgotten how much I enjoy performing. 2014 has been so busy and so manic (pfft, so much for my word of the year of “balance”) that I haven’t had much of a chance to dance at all, and it is still an unmatchable feeling to come off stage to appreciative applause (and sniggers, in this case).

Also got to sing the Twelve Days of Hogswatch (harder than you’d imagine, when you’re standing at the front holding up the words but you can’t actually read them yourself… it goes something like “On the FIRST day of Hogswatch, my true love sent to me, a mumble mumble blah blah blah. On the SECOND day of Christ-Hogswatch, my true love sent to me, TWO something mumble…” And that’s entirely sober!

Then the traditional sausage supper at the Bear, and on to the Pink Pussycat Club. Where we danced another number… dedicated to Rincewind the wizard, it involved a red pointy hat with stars on, three kimonos, doing some suggestive things with a potato masher and having a fight over some crisps. And the final reveal was…

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(photo credit: Paul Heyes via FB)

(if you don’t get it, don’t worry… it’s a long story. If you want to get it, read Interesting Times.)

Here’s another pic of us during Postman Pat…

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(photo credit: Tatyana Arbuzova via FB)

As cheesy as I know it sounds, the whole weekend felt like coming home. I didn’t feel like a newcomer (apart from when Nanny Ogg/Renta made me have a Hogswatch Virgin badge…), and as I’ve often found with my more niche hobbies (most notably model horsing – this felt a lot like that), there’s an instant sense of kinship. I even found some more stationery fiends (and friends) during our letter writing salon (an Ink Drops venture) on Sunday.

We were all letting our real selves out to play – our alter egos, but the ones we wish we could take back to everyday life with us. As so often recently, Lotta and I were perfectly in tune. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Having made so many new friends and felt so at home so quickly, coming back to the round world (not the Disc), and the prospect of the day job and doing housework were less than appealing.

I put this off by popping in on the way home to see my ex-headmaster and his family – which I know sounds weird, but my primary school was muchly special. Totally failed to get any photos of us all, but he did keep the sign when the school was demolished to make way for flats…

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And it was so lovely to catch up after more than a decade.

So I drove home to my silly kittens through the night, arrived at 10pm, fell into bed to dream of the Disc, and woke up still half there today. I spent this morning waving photos at anyone who would look, and am now settling down to the important work of planning next year’s costumes and skits.

Big thanks to Annastasia for giving me the chance to attend – it’s now an immovable fixture in my calendar.

Happy Hogswatch… I hope you’ve been naughty AND nice!

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PS for any non-Pratchett fans, normal service will resume shortly. If you’ve read him and don’t like it, fine. If you’ve never read him then for goodness’ sake go and borrow a book from your library and try one. You’ll never know if you don’t try…!

PPS You don’t actually have to be a fan to come to Hogswatch. I would love, love, love to see some of you there next year! Or at any of the various cons I hope to now attend in 2015 🙂

PPPS If you fancy creating your own alter ego, hop over and have a look at Unfurling Your Wings. It’ll launch a little later than planned due to some mad new VAT laws, but on the plus side, it’s now going to be a much more immersive experience, with goodies coming to you in the REAL ACTUAL POST.

All about that bass…

I love everything about this song and video. The beat, the lyrics, the catchiness, the colours, the set, everything. It’s probably a one hit wonder, and it’s already garnering “holy crap she’s exploiting body image to sell music” type comments – but I wanted to share it because I think it’s brilliant. Beejoli Shah articulates it well.

The only thing I don’t love is the fact that Meghan is referred to as “plus size” in every article I’ve so far read. Wtf?!

But there’s a lot to be said for a song that makes you smile repeatedly.

Choosing a talisman

After last week’s sneak peek of the talisman jewellery I’m currently making, I thought I’d share the locket that’s my own current favourite talisman, and how I came to choose it.

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From, and featuring an image by, one of my very favourite artists, Nicola Taylor, it shows her self portrait titled “Listen to the Colour of your Dreams”.

How to choose yours

A talisman should be a wearable reminder of something – a way to keep your dreams or wishes, hopes or beliefs, close to you. It should also be something that makes your heart sing – whether in colour, or style, or some kind of indefinable quality you can’t quite put your finger on.

Things to think about:

  • the colours that speak to your soul
  • words that have always meant something to you, whether in your mother tongue or another language
  • objects or animals (or both) you are drawn to
  • things people automatically associate you with
  • your dreams, aspirations and hopes – what could represent them?

(more…)

Shooting with film

One of my great loves in life is my Zenit E camera.

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A fully manual Russian camera from the 1950s, I picked it up for a song (almost literally – I think it and all its accompanying lenses and paraphernalia set me back the grand total of £10) at a car boot sale about six or seven years ago.

I haven’t taken it out for a spin for far too long, as film is expensive and I always seem to be shooting for quick results instead of experimenting these days. But I did find these few photos scanned in from the last roll of film I put through her. They have a quality I’ve never yet been able to replicate in Photoshop.

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Finding these has made me want to plan a trip to the seaside with my film and digital cameras side by side. The Zenit taught me more about light and camera settings than any course could, because you take time and you think more when you’re working with film. You can’t look at the results instantly and processing film is bloody expensive these days, so you find yourself instinctively taking more time over each shot. I love it – there’s nothing quite like it.

Do you shoot film?

 

 

The August Break 2014

Ooh, it’s nearly that time of year again!

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As last year and the year before, I’ll be joining in with Susannah Conway’s August Break. A month of photos on our blogs – and lots of wonderful new bloggers to read and connect with!

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As in previous years, I’ll probably dip in and out through the month – but I do love this particular photo challenge, it always creates a wonderful community and I meet likeminded souls every year. It’s also the best excuse I’ve had for ages to kick my new Flickr account into touch!

Will you join us?

Simon’s Cat in colour!

I had exciting news this week – Simon’s Cat, a cartoon I loved until I had kitties and now adore, is going to make a longer film, in colour!

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If you’re not familiar with this cheeky little cartoon cat, here’s one of their existing videos…


So you can see how gloriously accurately Simon and his team have captured the ups and downs of cat ownership.

But to make a longer, full colour film (all of which is drawn and animated by hand), they need our help. I love crowdfunding – I think it’s one of the best gifts the internet has given us as business owners. Here’s what the SC team have to say…

You can find out even more and claim your perk at the Simon’s Cat IndieGoGo campaign, open until 6 August.

Go on – and let me know what you claim. I’ve gone for a signed copy of the book 😀

(Disclaimer: this post is in no way affiliated with Simon’s Cat or IndieGoGo – I just want to spread the word and see the film made!)

Colouring in and desktop geekery

Ahem. So a couple of weeks ago I started an art journal. As predicted, I haven’t managed to use it every day (because some days are wordy days, and some days are illustrated days, and some days I’m just so tired there is no journalling at all).

But this week I have mostly been buying ADULT COLOURING IN BOOKS. Well. Actually, they’re children’s ones that I have commandeered, but that makes them no less valid for adults. Right?

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I am having so much fun… and it’s surprisingly therapeutic, especially since now I’m the grand old age of 28, there’s no pesky “art” teacher telling me I must colour inside the lines OR ELSE. (I never understood that – how are we supposed to stretch the bounds of our creativity if we have to keep inside pre-drawn areas even when we’re really small? But I digress.)

The “colouring for girls” did make me hesitate before buying it – but I really liked most of the images inside, so into my basket it went.

Other happy-making news this week:

Luna has learned to sit on my shoulder like a proper witch’s familiar. This is awesome…

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And I’ve finally organised myself into a proper, Photoshop and InDesign-friendly desk layout at home, thanks to a new screen and a cheap but pretty wireless keyboard. And I have a new barcode scanner – squeak!!

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Yes, my desk is always that messy and always contains Pepsi and cat treats. It works for me.

There has been cake and Pimms (spiked with vodka, as my mum gleefully informed me halfway through the afternoon), and my kittens’ first mouse, and beautiful skies and strange weather and wonderful conversations and new collaborations and an electric feeling in the air… excitement reigns in my enchanted realm!

I also launched my Magical Manifesto this week – I have more excitement up my sleeve on that front in the form of an email series, an online experience and a book. July is shaping up nicely after my horrible June. Which can only be a good thing.

Before I go and do some more colouring in (squee!), should you fancy brightening up your own desk, or sending some handwritten missives instead of emails and tweets, I refilled the Ink Drops Etsy shop today – pop over and have a nose 🙂

My first jewellery class

Yep, my first! Though I made and sold jewellery for a few years, I’d never actually taken a formal class – or even an informal class. I was totally self-taught from the internet, books and occasionally squeaking at lovely fellow makers who would show me how to get past anything I was having a wobble with.

So I was delighted when my friend Emma suggested we go to a beginners’ jewellery class at Deborah Beads in Fingringhoe, just up the road from me.

After coaxing the kittens in from outside a little earlier than normal, we set off up the winding countryside roads to where Debbie’s shop is. It was dark by the time we got there so I didn’t get any pics of the outside, but oh, indoors was like being let loose in a sweet shop!

LOOK AT ALL THE SHINY BEADS…

There were just four of us plus our teacher Diane, which made for a really friendly, relaxed evening where we could all ask questions and get individual help when we needed it.

I found that I knew some of the techniques but not others, and it was actually lovely to sit and create and know I didn’t have to get it listed in my Etsy shop the following day, as so often when I’ve been making jewellery before. (Not that I hated it – just it was good to be away from the pressure).

And much to our surprise, we came away with five different pieces of jewellery… two necklaces, two bracelets and a pair of earrings.

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I was so inspired that I proceeded to get my own long-neglected beading supplies (I’ve always been more of a stamper) out of the drawer they live in and sort them out while on Skype to Anna on Monday (that doesn’t count as multi-tasking – our Skypes are always so epic that both of us do useful stuff while we’re chatting), and then found myself inspired to create two more bracelets and a rather experimental necklace. Which I actually think turned out to be the best of the bunch!

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Certainly some of my favourite pieces I’ve ever made for myself.

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We’re looking forward to going back for the next level workshop – cluster jewellery. And I’m delighted I’ve rediscovered my jewellery mojo – and this time, I’m not feeling any urge to turn it into a business!

 

An unexpected baby unicorn

You might remember that a while back, I declared April 15 to be Give A Girl A Unicorn Day. (Complete with not-especially-well-designed Tackk page, and it’s evolved from “buy” into “give”. But you get the idea.) Having blurted about it quite a lot on various social media, I had a sneaking suspicion that my Facebook timeline might have a larger-than-average smattering of unicorns on April 15.

But what I definitely wasn’t expecting was this, in the post, by special delivery, when I was still in my dressing gown and really should already have been at work. (see? The Universe at work, right there). (Terrible grainy picture because I was so excited to open it, I forgot to take a decent one. Sorry.)

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Inside were lots of American cat toys for my two silly kittens, of which more in a separate post, and a BABY UNICORN for me.

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It was so completely unexpected that I laugh-cried my way through the box (I’ve not done that in years and years), and it turned out to be the best timing ever, as my Gran went into hospital on the evening of the 15th and the rest of this week has been rather more stressful than is ideal. (She’s recovering now, but it’s been a very odd week).

Both the thoughtfulness and the surprise of it absolutely made my week 🙂 I’m a lucky girl with awesome friends.

Special mention also to these wonderful unicorns which also popped up on my wall…

 

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So perhaps I’ll make it a proper day next year and see if I can send it viral?!

When serendipity strikes

Serendipity and excitement are the two main themes of my life at the moment.

There are so many lovely things going on, and so many possibilities and emotions and so much potential whizzing around in the air, that I am excited fit to burst, and finding it incredibly hard not to dance through the corridors of the day job with joy, on the very tips of my toes.

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New friends have come into my life in the most unexpected of ways in the past few months . One through answering an ad for some cosmetics I was selling, with whom I’m now starting a craft club. Several through being sociable at work. A few of us are starting dance classes, sparked by going to the university’s dance show. Some through my ever-dependable online networks of escape artists and free rangers and lifestyle engineers. 

I’ve been working with Amanda Aitken, in her new Girl’s Guide courses, and from just the first week I’ve had some lightbulb moments. I’m excited about these new ideas in a way I’ve not felt about business projects for a long time… possibly ever.

Two weeks and lots of experiments after I had my hair dyed blue, I’ve found the perfect electric blue colour for it (Directions Atlantic Blue, if you’re curious).

And new opportunities pop up at every corner – from tap dancing to faery festivals, there has been a spectacular explosion of things into my life, and I want to take advantage of every single one.

I’ve always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason… but lately I’ve also become a firm believer in the universe providing what you are open to. Like begets like, and all that – so if you expect goodness, abundance, new friendships, likeminded people and opportunities you could never have dreamed of before… then all those things will happen in the fullness of time. Pure magic in action.

I’ve been working on creating a magical, colourful life for some time. It’s been happening, but oh so slowly. Then in the past few months, it’s accelerated. And because I’ve been so focused on the life I want, feeling it start to really take shape truly feels like coming home.

There’s a way to go before I’m living my dream fully (with added unicorns!)- but now my baby steps feel less faltering, and more twirling and joyful and natural. And so I am off to run down the corridors, to spin in the sunshine and dance in the moonlight.

Four ways to transform Monday into your favourite day

Ah, Monday. In the working world, it gets such a bad rap for being the start of the working week, that I thought I’d share some ways to make it better.

1. If you’re able to work flexi-time, go in later or finish earlier on Mondays. I changed my hours so I have Monday afternoons off and work longer days Tuesday to Friday and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

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Blogging from the garden on a Monday afternoon in June.

2. Arrange regular Monday treats with colleagues or other self-employed people. A few of us at my day job meet regularly on Mondays for anything from full blown afternoon tea to a quick cuppa between meetings, and knowing I’m going to see these lovely sparkly ladies makes my whole week better!

3. Make Monday evening a night for dates or catch ups – so you can either spend quality time with your significant other, or catch up with friends (in person is brilliant, over Skype is perfectly acceptable – Contrariety Rose’s Louise and I often have wine nights over Skype!). The day goes faster if you’re looking forward to something in the evening, and you can plan your outfit in those really boring meetings.

4. Trying to escape the day job? Make Monday your Great Escape Plan day – commit to spending an amount of time each Monday working on the broader plan or picture. If you’ve not started something on the side yet, use the time for planning, self-development or training, and taking concrete baby steps towards your vision. If you have already started, promise yourself you’ll use that time solely for planning your next moves, not for doing client work or admin.

Four quick ways to turn Monday from blah to woohoo!

What’s your favourite? Do you have any other tips for making the start of the week better?