A kittenish birthday

Though it seems completely impossible, my two silly felines are two years old. Already. Still the very best decision I’ve ever made, they continue to make me snort with laughter on a daily basis and give the absolute best cuddles.

However, they were entirely nonplussed by both the occasion and my insistence on taking birthday portraits…
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What I wore: a secret wedding

Well, originally intended to be secret, and actually a small, intimate and utterly joyful celebration of one of the happiest and best-suited couples I know.

I chose my outfit around the shoes… which is becoming a bit of a habit!

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A London wedding and being unofficial photographer meant long dresses were out – and I didn’t want to detract from the polka dotted, blue-and-red-and-white shoes. (which, for the record, I can walk and run in!)

So I chose a pretty beaded navy blue dress with a glorious chiffon skirt… dress-full-length

My hair was in ringlets when we left the bride’s room – sadly it doesn’t hold curl so by the time we arrived at the pre-ceremony brunch, it was more wavy, and by the time the ceremony was over it was straight again!

Here’s the gorgeous couple cutting their cake…

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Aren’t they brilliant? It was one of my favourite weddings to date, and I was honoured to capture it in photos for them as well as being their witness (surprisingly nervewracking!)

Last minute photoshoot prep – argh

I have a photoshoot with the lovely Grace tomorrow afternoon.

We booked it months ago, which means the date has snuck up on me, and while I’m very excited, I’m also incredibly disorganised. This week I have been frantically making these beauties:

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while simultaneously freaking out about how little preparation I’ve actually managed to do.

Discovering at ten to five on Wednesday that a) a key part of one of my costumes was locked in my parents’ garage, b) the location I had scouted would be overrun with students investigating their futures at university (how inconsiderate, lol!), and c) I hadn’t actually got round to ordering two other key costume components yet, I haven’t been the most serene in the run up to the shoot.

Fortunately Grace has found us a new location, the internet is magical and I have both costume pieces in my hands, and I did a detour on the way to see my accountant last night and got the other one from the garage. Phew. Now all that’s left is dyeing my hair, deciding on make up and actually getting there in one piece tomorrow…

Worst case scenario, I guess we’ll fly…

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I have been scouring the internet and my Craftsy classes for posing ideas and practice, because despite all my dance history and being a photographer, generally when you stick a lens in my face I get the giggles, and not in a delicate and attractive way, usually in an all out snorting, crying-with-laughter-while-rolling-on-the-floor kind of a way. Which is going to be difficult in a corset.

Fortunately the two main looks we’ll be shooting are my two newest alter egos – Nell, real name Petronella Blythe Merriman, who’s a steampunk gypsy with a story all her own, and an as-yet-unnamed woodland fairy with rainbow wings and western boots. (I love how this alter ego work feeds off who you actually are.)

So though I’m excited-nervous to be the other side of the camera, I’m looking forward to drawing out more of Nell’s character, and perhaps finding out my fairy’s name and personality.

I’ll let you know how it goes! (and secretly? I’m pleased I’ve not had time to stress about it much. Like my self portraits, I suspect it’ll go better for being a bit spontaneous…)

With love and unicorns,

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The ghosts of Carla past

Aka a spontaneous trip to say goodbye to my childhood home before it was sold.

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We moved in in 1993, when I was seven… and we turned it from an identikit new house on an estate to a much loved family home with a glorious garden. (I say ‘we’ – I had a miniature cement trowel and gardening kit, but while I was convinced I was helping, I’m now pretty sure my lovely parents were just humouring me…)

The Wendy house in the corner was the site of some of my most magical and happy childhood memories. It had electricity (because my Dad is amazing) and he and one of his best friends moved it for me from our old house – apparently 6 year old me made it a condition of moving, along with a Thelwell pony cartoon frieze in my bedroom.

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Not long after we moved in (though we had laid grass, top patio and put the Wendy house up)

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As it was when I saw it for the last time, at the beginning of May. Some difference! 

I probably wouldn’t have made a special trip to say goodbye to the house now it’s empty, but happened to be down the same weekend to see one of my best friends try on her wedding dress, and she only lives half an hour away from the old house.

So we went and wandered round, remembered all the happy times the house has seen, and also took some photos in the garden by my wendy house (I’m still slightly sad I haven’t been able to dismantle it and bring it to live up here, but my garden isn’t big enough and it’s almost 25 years old. I think it should stay where it is).

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I sat in my favourite place to watch thunderstorms (but no longer fit all the way through the window as I used to as a child), and I marvelled at how much the garden has changed since we first moved in, and I reminisced aloud with Lou and silently, nostalgically, quietly alone as well.

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I even found my hamsters’ gravestone. You can almost read “Dozy” but the dates, and Herman’s name, are long gone.

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And then we went and had tea with two of my lovely neighbours, and got in Lou’s car, and drove home.

It was strange but lovely – a little like stepping into the past, a little like looking to the future. I think I’d have found it hard to do if I wasn’t so settled where I am – so many rites of passage and key life events happened while I lived there. But I’ve flown the nest and the house should do what it does best – shelter and nurture a growing family.

I found some old photos of my childhood in the garden and my bedroom:

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I still have Larry the lamb. Sadly Biscuit the cat, Amadeus Woofgang Mozart the dog (what can I say? I was a gloriously geeky child) and Scruff the smaller dog have since found new homes. There’s the Thelwell frieze I apparently insisted my Dad installed before I consented to move house…!

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Terrible photo, but we lived at the top of the hill and Dad built me a sledge so I could have more fun on snow days. It was the envy of the other children in the close (as was my night time sledging!)

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Dad and I having breakfast in the garden. My late godfather Nick would have approved – this was when we still had a charcoal bbq, before we got the gas one I still use now <3

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Some things never change – I still love My Little Pony! 

I’m full of love and gratitude for our time there – it saw everything from knee scrapes to my first love, from Dad’s departure for a stint overseas to my driving test, and I left to go to university and start my adult life from there. Though I’ve not lived in it for nearly a decade, it feels very strange to think I’ll never go through its doors or see my beloved Wendy house again.

I hope that the family moving in loves it as much as we did. It’s bittersweet letting it go – but its sale is helping me buy a house of my very own – so a new era is beginning.

With love and nostalgic unicorns,

Carla

52 Project, week 10: indescribable

Week 10 of 2015. In which I embarked on an epic road trip through my soul home of Texas (hopping over into Louisiana the following week), and fulfilled one of my longest-held dreams –  to see Alan Jackson live in concert. I haven’t finished editing the 3000 photos I took over the fortnight, so here are a few tasters:

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(fuzzy because we were only allowed mobiles, not proper cameras)

The gig was the main reason for our visit, and oh, how utterly glorious it was. I cried most of the way through it with sheer emotion at being there after more than 20 years of waiting to see him on stage. AND he played all my favourites from the early days.

I also found time to…

Have the traditional breakfast-with-beer at the airport:

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Drive my fellow passengers mad by taking photos of the pretty clouds on the plane:

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Wake up on Wednesday morning to four inches of snow. In Texas.

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Fall in love with Jon Pardi, who was supporting Alan Jackson (and he’s currently single. Reckon he’d fall for that accent all American men seem to inexplicably find super cute?! Though is it just me whose speech becomes half pure Southern belle and half female Hugh Grant the moment I set foot over the border into the States?)

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Eat ridiculous amounts of the best fried chicken, mash and creamed corn in the world at Babe’s in Roanoake, TX:

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Try a DQ Blizzard on our drive to Fredericksburg:dairy-queen-blizzard

Make a pilgrimage to my Dad’s spiritual home in Luckenbach, Texas and added a charm to my talisman necklace while playing at practising for being a cowgirl:luckenback-cowgirl

Have a makeover before the gig, which was lovely and pampering:

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to be continued…

52 Project: Weeks 7 – 9

Oops. I’ve been taking as many photos as ever, but somehow have completely failed to choose a photograph every week and put it on the blog. The first three and a half months of 2015 have flown past with indecent haste!

I can’t choose just one so the 52 Project will be more of a my year in pictures type project…

Week 7 (9-15 February): Creativity

Louise Rose Couture at Retro Photo Studio

Assisting Louise Rose Couture with a shoot at Retro Photo Studio – which was so much fun! I have a whole stash of shots from my behind the scenes documenting of the day, but I’ll share them in a separate post. This was a quick snap with my mobile.

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Collaging and creating and giving myself permission to rip up old magazines. A lovely way of spending an afternoon.

Week 8 (16-22 February) Birthday joyfulness

Obviously I’m struggling to pick just one for each week. 16-22nd February involved birthday chilling, an amazing photo treasure hunt with a wonderfully eclectic selection of friends, and most importantly, my fluffy Clover-kitty was back to her usual silly self after a poison scare involving a stay at the vet.

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Week 9 (23 February – 1 March): Preparation

Getting ready to head off on holiday, I had a calming and colourful Lush bubble bath, got woken by the Nose-Biting Kitten Alarm (TM), finally cracked off-camera flash for product photography and found a stowaway while packing my suitcase.

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Creating A Magical Life – the Dream Board

It’s no secret that I’m a great believer in talismans – visual or physical (or both) representations of what means the most to you.

Things you’re aiming or hoping or striving for; things you want to be reminded of; dreams you’re chasing; anything you want to keep in mind.

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And I’m also a convert to the power of manifesting – or making what you want happen. The concept has undergone a bit of a transformation, from something totally away with the fairies to something more concrete and tangible, and I believe much more socially acceptable than it was a few years ago. (It’s possible I just hang out with very open, likeminded people, but either way I don’t much care what people think – it works for me!)

I’m the biggest fan of magic going, but actually I’m not convinced manifesting is particularly ethereally magical. I think it’s a more practical magic – if you get clear on what you want and remind yourself of this regularly, then you’re much more likely to notice opportunities to make it happen – opportunities that may otherwise have passed you by.

Gratitude and goals lists are already part of my daily routine – usually the last thing I do at night before I put the lights off and snuggle up with a cat on my head (yes, really – Luna-kitty refuses to sleep on the bed unless she’s on my head, purring loudly into my ear. It’s a surprisingly nice way to fall asleep). These tend to be more immediate – things from the day I’m thankful for, things I hope to achieve in the next few days/weeks/months. I have a list for each year too, though I’ve not yet shared that here.

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So when I saw Leonie’s suggestion in her 2015 Shining Year workbook to create a dream board for the year ahead, I jumped on it – a wonderful combination of talisman and manifesting list!

I covered an old noticeboard in pretty fabric, and found a teacup to store my pins. Then I dug out my scrapbooking stash, some precious objects, my 2015 intentions list and my Pinterest boards and proceeded to create a visual representation of the things that mean most to me and the things I intend, hope for, wish for and plan for in the coming year.

Some highlights:

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At the top is my Hogswatch 2014 medal – as one of the outstanding highlights of 2014, and with the passing of Terry Pratchett while I was away in Texas, Hogswatch 2015 in Wincanton is the one event I will be at by hook or by crook this year.

On the other side is a Night Circus inspired embroidery my gorgeous friend Gabby made for me – to remind me to keep my imagination, my dreams and my eclectic style going and not succumb to normality.

Then there are the other pins – ranging from reminders to inspiring quotes to business goals to personal aspirations, skills I want to acquire and experiences I want to have, things that inspire me and beautiful things I’d love to have in my life (velvet cloak, anyone?).

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I add to it constantly, and tick things off as I achieve them too. It lives in my living room, at the heart of my house – and it’s one of the best ways I’ve ever had of keeping track of multiple intentions.

Big thanks to Leonie – I’m already excited to see how it’ll look by the end of the year!

Do you have a dream board? Would love to see…!

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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52 Project, week 6: colourful

Couldn’t choose just one for this week – too much good stuff! Rainbow shoes, My Little Pony hair, glittery Doc Martens and a sign I’m on the right track…

First up, rainbow decopatched heels – these were a much loved pair of black leather Mary Janes from Schuh, which I own in black, red and magenta. But all three pairs have been so worn over the last 7 or 8 years that no amount of polish was going to make them acceptable. So I turned the black pair into rainbow shoes.

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Then I went to get my hair re-bleached for some more and brighter blue on Saturday. But liked the brown-to-blonde-to-mint-green look so much I haven’t actually put any extra dye in yet! IMG_20150207_155655

If I don’t find any cowboy boots I adore on this trip to the States, I shall be buying these glittery babies the moment I return…

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And a sign that I’m on the right path with Unfurling Your Wings – I’ve never bought Illamasqua, though my friend Wendy has designed bags for their launches, but I have just discovered that their tagline is “make up for your alter ego”. Perfect. 20150208_115452

 

As ever, the other contenders are on my Flickr stream.

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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