Approaching 29

Seven weeks into 2015, and just a few hours from my 29th birthday.

I’m not one to get overly hung up on ages and dates, but I did get a bit of a shock at Christmas when I showed my cousin my 30 for 30 list, and blithely declared I had 25 months left to do it all in. She swiftly pointed out that a) maths clearly isn’t my strong point and b) I had 13 months left, not 25.

Oops.

That list rapidly became ‘daydreams to do’, because my 29th year is already packed full of wonder – there are some things on that list I know I will do in my life, but I also know I won’t do this year – I don’t want to squish in all the experiences, I want to have time to anticipate and then savour each one.

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So what have I learned, in my almost 29 years on the planet? Here’s a list, in no particular order:

Sometimes the things you’re most opposed to can lead to the most glorious moments of your life.

I definitely don’t want children (the cats are quite responsibility enough) – but I’m properly excited for more of my friends to have children, so I can be the cool auntie who brings inappropriate presents and has them over for weekends full of sugar and fun.

Living on my own has been one of the best decisions I ever made. And it isn’t lonely.

Occasionally, you’ll make decisions which will change your whole life and turn it upside down. But mostly, you’ll move towards your dreams step by (sometimes painfully small) step.

We overestimate what we can do in a day, but (massively) underestimate what we can do in a year.

Pets are actually small, furry family members, and just as precious as fellow human beings.

I can tassel twirl. And as part of the Paper Dolls burlesque troupe, I also do it on stage. The shy, gawky, nervous 15-year-old me is staring down the passage of time, awestruck and slightly embarrassed and bloody proud of how I’ve dealt with my body image issues in the last few years.

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I’ve learned we shouldn’t pigeonhole ourselves too early in life – discovering at 19 that I was creative, after a lifetime of being told I was academic and not creative, was the single biggest revelation of my life to date.

If you don’t like your job, get the hell out. Don’t quit without a plan, but start looking – knowing their shit is no longer your problem when you hand in your notice to a place that’s wrong for you is an amazing feeling.

Your first broken heart hurts like hell.

You learn an absolutely ridiculous amount about yourself from relationships and their endings. Seriously, it was like a crash course in How Carla Works, both times – in very different ways.

Never, ever settle for being second best or someone’s backup choice. You are worth SO much more than that.

Try everything that catches your fancy, if it’s possible – I have a room full of craft materials, half of which I’ll probably never touch again, but all of it has brought me joy and new skills at some stage.

Serendipity and coincidence are sweet – and never get old.

Old friends and new friends are just as precious, but in different ways. Don’t abandon the old in favour of the new unless you have good reason to do so. And don’t assume that just because someone is very different to you, that you can’t be friends. Variety and different perspectives are always good!

Don’t feel guilty about things you can’t control or influence. Spend your energy doing what you can, but remember that everyone has their own free will.

Nothing is original, but no one can do what you do like you can. And never second-guess people’s reactions to what you do. Telling people about my alter ego coaching and course has been eye-opening – the reactions have been amazing from even the most unlikely people.

If you make a daft statement like “I love this house so much, I can’t ever imagine crying while I live here” when you move into a new house, you are highly likely to be proved wrong within the week.

Having good friends within walking distance is unbelievably sweet – especially after close to ten years of trekking up and down the M25 on a regular basis. (I’m still working on getting certain people to move up here….!)

It’s ok to stop doing things you don’t want to do – whether that’s a business, a job, a relationship, a house… it’s good to have a plan first, but you don’t have to do anything forever unless you want to.

Life is too short to worry about your weight or what other people think of you. Wear, and do, what makes you the happiest.

Oh – and if you want to dye your hair, go ahead and do it. I waited 9 years to dye mine blue/turquoise – and while I love that it represents me so perfectly right now, I do wish I hadn’t waited so long.

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Here’s to the very last year of my twenties!

With love and unicorns,

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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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Three words for the year ahead

There is a definite trend towards choosing a word for the year, a word to keep in mind through all you do and experience over the following twelve months.

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2014’s words – how did that go?

Last year I chose Abundance and Balance, and they played out in interesting ways for me. Not as I expected, but the next time something goes to plan will be the first, so that was no real surprise.

I learned that I have far more than I had first assumed, and, led by the abundance mindset, I started to get control of my finances for the first time in my life. Little things, like paying my insurance for my beloved car Poppy in full, from money I’d saved instead of overdraft or borrowing from parents. There’s a way to go before I’m properly sorted on the financial front, but I’m getting there, and it feels brilliant.

Balance was also intriguing – I had intended to have a better balance between all the things I do – my day job, my own businesses, my family and my friends (kitties come under family, in case anyone thinks I’ve forgotten them), as well as fitting in time for self care and doing fun stuff.

But 2014 turned out to be the year I hit burnout in quite a big way, and by November I was unproductive, forgetful, snappy, tearful, struggling to wake up, struggling to sleep and sleepwalking through my days while doing the absolute bare minimum essential to appearing reasonably human. And how did this relate to my declared value of ‘balance’? Well, Naomi summed it up for me – you have to experience life out of balance to realise how important it is, and to put measures in place to maintain it.

Taking what Balance taught me last year, I rested as much as I could over Christmas (could do with another month, but 12 days was pretty good going) am putting up a solid fence around my alone time and breathing space, making sure I have at least one weekend a month free of any commitments at all, and learning to say no. I’ve given up the SW class I was at with my mum in favour of dancing, resting or creative fun on a Tuesday, and I’m allowing myself to have whole afternoons or evenings just talking to people rather than endlessly following my to do lists regardless of how I feel – and 2015 is already happier for it.

So what are this year’s words?

As ever, I couldn’t settle on just one, so I’ve gone for three.

2015 will be my year of Freedom, Magic and Simplicity.

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Freedom – of all kinds. Freedom to choose what I do and when, freedom from the 9-5 arbitrary working times is my ultimate goal, but I’m also aiming for financial freedom, improving my ability to say no to things that won’t enrich my life, and true emotional freedom (I’ve come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years, but there’s always more work to do).

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Magic – because if I had to choose one word that I embody, it would be magic. I feel magic, I make magic, I am magic – and with each day that passes I relax into that and stop worrying about what people will think. This year I want to make sure I never forget to appreciate the magic and wonder all around me, and embed my own magic into my signature programme Unfurling Your Wings, and my free e-course Everyday Magic, so I can share it with as many other people as possible.

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Simplicity – because by goddess I am fed up to the back teeth of my clutter! I love my creative home, but it is truly full to overflowing and I need to simplify down – one girl and two cats do not need more possessions than an average family of five. And the more I clear, the more space I’ll create for more gorgeous stuff/things to enter my life.

I’m also using simplicity in terms of arrangements, plans and thoughts. Trying to take the simplest path through everything, and it should also apply to my work, or at least my day job work – the past of least resistance and most efficiency is often the simplest. And just applying it to the 40-odd hours a week I spend at my day job would improve my life enormously.

They’re in the front of my daybook and on the bracelet and ring I made for these photos so will be with me every day of 2015. I wonder what the next year will bring…

PS I’m planning to add custom stamped jewellery to my shop – let me know if there’s a particular word or phrase you’d like!

On my desk: Planning geek heaven! (contains Filofax goodness)

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My love affair with Filofaxes blows hot and cold, but I am certain it will never blow over.

It’s that time of year when I start needing to write stuff in my diary for the following January and February (and March, given our upcoming trip) and my stationery addiction comes out to play. (Oh, who am I kidding – it comes out to play most days!!)

I blogged over on Ink Drops recently about my custom daily planner, and I have been really enjoying using it. However, when three months of the year is chunkier and heavier than a standard A4 hardback notebook, it’s not the most practical for planning – and it’s become more of a daybook – somewhere to record what I do, spend my time and money on, am grateful for, would like to do next, and all the random thoughts that occur throughout the day.

Then I ambled into my friend Nic’s office and found her pulling apart an A5 Filofax, while her printer churned out some beautiful planner pages. And a little light went “ding” in my head.

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On leaving the library in 2011, I was given a Paperchase voucher (because they knew me well) and I bought myself… yep, you guessed it,  the most glorious plum leather A5 Filofax. I adored it and I’m not entirely sure when or why I stopped using it.

And wouldn’t you know, there is a whole world of Filofax and personal planner customising out there – a way for me to let my inner crafter loose!

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I’ve spent most of my spare moments this week creating dividers from scrapbooking card, joyfully making lists of what sections and sub-sections I want to have in there (I’m in geek heaven) and Nic and I have even bought a proper hole punch between us so we can easily add more custom bits to our planners.  I’m also working on a whole bunch of custom inserts, which I might chuck in the Etsy shop if I ever finish a cohesive set of them!

I’ll reveal it in more detail at some point, and review the punch too (you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find one, but this one was reasonable at £32 and has worked exceptionally well so far).

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The best part? Except for the punch, I’ve not spent a penny – I’ve used scrapbooking card & papers I already owned, Project Life cards and stickers from my stash to jazz it up, and I even already had colour coded pens (why does that surprise no one?) to keep with it.

 

 

Discovering photography

I discovered photography in 2006, when working at the Telegraph with a creative director who was utterly obsessed with the medium.

He helped me choose my first ‘proper’ camera – a Panasonic DMZ-500 bridge, I believe – and encouraged me to go out shooting at lunchtime, on the train, at weekends.

self portrait with my first bridge camera | carlalouise.com

(with my beloved Panasonic – and to give you an idea of timescale, LOOK HOW SHORT MY HAIR IS…)

I took self portraits everywhere, mainly because I found it easier to use myself as a model than faff either asking a stranger or organising a proper shoot.

self portrait at the Telegraph circa 2008 | carlalouise.com

self portrait on the train circa 2008 | carlalouise.com

After my intern year finished, while my boyfriend of the time revised for his Masters exams, I took myself off on photo walks around our home town. I took accidental pony porn, terrible close ups of flowers, pictures of cars, dogs on walks, woods, people, shops.

Most of them were technically awful, but by that time I was addicted to the feel of the camera in my hands, the click and whirr of the lens, the ability to capture a moment in time by pressing a button.

Eight years on, I’m still blogging and still photographing – and recently rediscovering just how much I love the click of that shutter and committing moments to paper or pixels. And the pull of creating what’s in my head through my lens is as strong as ever – it’s an elusive thrill but one I never tire of chasing. It’s kept me sane through ups and downs more times than I can remember. And my camera is probably the one inanimate object I’d save from a fire if I could only pick one thing.

 

I’ll be forever grateful to Himesh for starting me on that journey and giving me the confidence to try a new art form without worrying about the results.

What’s your starting-photography story? Did you grow up camera in hand, or discover it a little (or a lot) later in life?

How self portraits healed my grief

2007 and 2008 show up in my archives as self portrait upon self portrait upon self portrait.

In a time before the word “selfie” existed, and when Facebook was only a year or two old, it was less about exhibitionism and more about discovering myself and improving my skills as a photographer at the same time.

Following the break up of a seven year relationship with my childhood sweetheart at the end of 2007, I had no idea how to deal with it and quickly retreated into my own little world with my camera to try and make sense of my grief. While driving my friends and family to distraction with my circular thoughts and endless tears, I took photo after photo after photo, both posed and candid.

I started a 365 project which can be seen here, though not all the images are publicly visible – they’re mainly snapshots but having a zero-faff daily project helped so much:


Created with flickr slideshow.

 

They can also be seen here on my Flickr account if the slideshow is playing silly buggers (internet explorer, I’m looking at you…)

The daily ritual of remembering to take and upload my photo, of finding new ways to see myself, to pose, places to be – they helped me see myself as a whole person, not the half of a couple I had always been. I learned how to be me, how to be by myself and how to be happy alone… crucial lessons for rebuilding my current happier, brighter, colourful life.

In essence I suppose photographed my way around my broken heart, fixing the break with pixels and colour and light. The thing I’d adopted as one of my many interests and developed as a skill ultimately helped me find myself again, deal with the pain, shed my old self and move on with my life.

Looking back at those photos I took, I can see (because hindsight is magic, but also because I have changed so, so much in that time) the girl I was and the woman I am. I can see the pain I was in and my desperate hope that it would somehow turn out to be a bad dream, but I can also see my true personality peeking out, though at the time I didn’t notice it. And it’s like getting to know a little sister after a long absence… it’s bittersweet to see her ups and downs and I wish I could tell her it would all be ok. More than ok – it’ll be rather wonderful a few years down the line!

And as the catalyst for a curious life – well, seven years later I’m still photographing my way through this world, and learning daily from it.

I’m thinking of doing another series soon – drop me a note if you’d like to join me!

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…)

What’s your A-Z?

A summer of Instagram and meeting some photographically minded friends last weekend have inspired me to get out and about with my camera. If I’m exploring a new area, I love doing an A-Z challenge alone or with people.

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Decide on a theme, and then fill it in before you leave or as you go along, and use as a shot list. You can do it solo or with friends, collaboratively or as a competition.

You can also use the list for gratitude lists, blog or article series ideas, places you want to visit… anything that’s alphabetical really.

You can download your own copy of my blank list here (no sign up required!) or by clicking on the image. And don’t forget to show me how you’ve used it on Instagram! The more inventive, the better…

Wishing you unicorns and happiness,

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Guilty confessions of a former librarian #1: befriending characters in books

With the very best of books, the ones that are dog-eared from re-reading, and which stay with you long, long after you’ve reached the last page, I often find myself referring to those characters as my friends. Not directly; but in a “a friend of mine said that…” or “I know someone who…” in conversation.

And often it’s days afterwards, if ever, that I remember that it wasn’t a friend at all but a much loved character in a book. It’s no secret that I’m an avid reader, and also no secret that I tend not to read great literary tomes, but instead fresh, light books that allow my imagination to run riot. large_3986164316

photo credit: Vivi Calderón via photopin cc

The hook that will pull me into a book is not its subject matter (though if it has a heroine with her own biz, that’s a good starting point) but whether or not I care about its characters.

I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise – my alter ego is named after the character I loved most in Enid Blyton’s Mr Galliano’s Circus, and I am fascinated by cosplay – but it amazes me how much people laugh when I explain that sometimes what I’ve said came not from a friend but from a fictional character.

They laugh fondly, and they say it’s one of my many quirks that makes me an original… but to date I have only ever found one other person who absorbs the characters as I do and sees them as more than words on a page. She happens to be one of my best friends.

There must be some more of us out there who care so deeply about the people they’re reading about that they can’t sleep for wondering what happens next… or find themselves distracted during the day at work because of an unresolved argument between two characters… or who feel bereft at the end of a book when there is no sequel and you have to bid goodbye to your new friends?

Is this a unique quirk, or one I share with lots of people? I embrace it either way but I’d love to know!

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?

Don’t get lost in the big picture

What I’ve learned this week: remember the little details as well as the bigger plan, and don’t lose sight of your why.

I recently had something approaching a meltdown about my working life. When I started this job, it was a two year contract, which would have ended in November this year.

Though it was changed to a permanent contract shortly before I started, I don’t think I’ve ever lost the impression that it was fleeting, temporary, short lived. I’d used it as a springboard and a deadline – that by the end of 2014, I’d be fully, gainfully and profitably self employed.

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background photo credit: j-dub1980 via photopin cc

Yeah. It’s June, and while The Website Beautician and Ink Drops are thriving, realistically that’s not a goal I’m going to reach in five months. Not least because, inspired by some awesome friends of mine, I have closed my books for TWB until September to rethink and plan and rework my ideas and my goals and my dreams.

You see, though I love making websites, I’m not sure I want to carry on making them for clients. Or at least, I think I’d like to change the way in which I create websites for other people.

And in admitting that, and making the decision to give myself a couple of months to finish current projects and then *breathe*, it feels like a weight has lifted.

I’d got so bogged down in the *must quit by December” deadline (which was entirely in my head), and the how of such a massive task, that I’d forgotten why I wanted to be self employed in the first place, and indeed, why I left London and took this job.

There is a post in my archives (originally posted on Ducking Fabulous) about what I was looking forward to after quitting the City and I think that says it all.

Time and freedom and ease. Freedom to create, freedom from worry about finances, time to spend with loved ones and with my camera and in my studio. Ease in what I wear, what I do, how I live. Space to make healthy choices, to indulge, to enjoy every moment of my life, no matter what I’m doing – and space and time and freedom to grow my businesses with ease, free from the pressures of having to make a living wage from them from day one.

I cannot create from a place of desperation – worrying about money is one of the things that saps my imagination, ability and desire to create faster than anything else. With the run of bad news relating to people I love recently, perspective has shot through my life in a blaze of colour – giving me clarity, and sanity, and a renewed vision of my WHY.

rainbow

photo credit: Ava-forever catching up.. via photopin cc

And so I have pulled my head and shoulders out of that dark, panicky, suffocating tunnel of a deadline. I saw the doctor on Wednesday and am going for blood tests which will hopefully help pull the rest of my body out of that tunnel as well.

I have made my peace with my day job, which I actually rather like, but was beginning to resent with all the other commitments that have been necessary in recent weeks. I have started an art journal, begun to blog regularly again, and picked up my camera to create rather than to capture snapshots for the first time in months, if not years.

Though I miss lots of my lovely friends, for now I am saying no to social things so I can get my head together, and hopefully by late summer will be in a better place emotionally and financially so I can catch up with them all again.

I feel better already for just making the decisions – and it means I can get on with creating for my amazing existing clients without worrying about how to fit in future ones for now.

And already an opportunity to collaborate and create custom themes has presented itself, and I’ve bumped into an old acquaintance who I suspect is going to be a really good friend. Cheers, Universe – you do know what you’re doing really, don’t you?

It’s a good place to be, if not what I expected or planned for. But the best things are often unexpected. I’m excited to see what the next few months brings!

Have you had a massive rethink of your plans (entrepreneurial or otherwise)? How did you manage it? I’d love to hear your stories!

On leaving technology behind for a while

Following on from my single-tasking experiment (which is rapidly becoming a habit), I’ve also been thinking and talking about going off-grid for a bit. Just for 24 or 48 hours at a time to start with.

Imagine. No phone, no laptop, no tablet/Kindle/internet.

No screens (except possibly the one on my camera).

No Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram… Pinterest is a particular offender at the moment, because I can spend three hours pinning things in front of a screen and then feel like I’ve been creative without actually having exercised a single creative muscle.

I love them all – but talking to the lovely Sarah, Lisa, Nina and Louise last week, I realised that I’ve not been without my mobile since I got it at the age of 14. That’s HALF MY LIFE.

I’ll happily admit that one of the reasons I love living alone so much is modern technology – on the rare occasions I’d prefer company and haven’t already organised it, I can communicate with someone in moments. But as a result I barely know my neighbours, and make less effort to see my local friends than I would otherwise. (We all acknowledge this – but don’t often do anything about it.)

I’m also conscious that I couldn’t have the lifestyle I do, or run the businesses I do, if the internet didn’t exist. And I don’t want it to un-exist. It’s a massive resource, a valuable tool and an altogether incredible concept.

And it would be daft to pretend that I don’t invite much of this contact in – I’m well aware that I make a lot of effort to contact and stay in touch with people using all sorts of social media because it’s convenient.

But I wonder how much more I could have achieved if Facebook didn’t exist, if I didn’t spend hours scrolling through Twitter, pinning on Pinterest, liking photos on Instagram. What if I was out there capturing even more of my own images, getting lost without the assistance of Google maps? Having coffee with people instead of chucking a vague Facebook message their way?

And then I saw this, and it cemented my intentions.

I’m not going to give it up entirely. But I am going to have 48 hours off grid while I’m away, and then try and work up to having a day a week free from screens, the internet and the pervasive nature of social media.

Of course, there’s a possibility I’ll hate it, and like all habits, it’ll be hard to break. But I suspect my life, this blog, and my relationships will be all the richer for it.

Have you ever been off-grid? Or restricted your use of screens, social media, phones for a while?