Helena Clayton | January: 3 Good Things
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January: 3 Good Things

03 Feb 2019, Posted by Helena Clayton in Monthly Blog

This month, it’s been about #creative #inspiration, the importance of the #physical #space you work in and my first #crowdfunding venture.

In one way or another, I like to review the past year and look ahead to the next one.

This year, working with my occasional-coach and-all-round-wise-woman Tiu de Haan, I could see a gap. In the review of ‘cultural and creative’, I do hardly anything. Sure, I read a heap of fiction. And yes, some summer festivals count too. But I have Tate and SouthBank membership more for space for coaching sessions – and I only saw one exhibition in 2018, usually rushing on to the next thing or heading home telling myself I have too much to do. A bit of a desert, all told. Arid, even?

But on 20 January, stimulated by my session with Tiu, and in between meetings, I went to the Tate. I spent a few hours at the Edward Burne-Jones exhibition, and then plonked myself down in the café and did some work there. The exhibition was stunning and I’m so glad I went. I felt topped up. Made all the more special as it was a work day and I ‘should’ have been working …

Artist date

So first, this month, is the idea of an ‘artist date’. The term comes from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which you probably know. A wonderful book, dedicated to ways we can maintain our artistic ecosystem and keep ourselves resourced with creative inspiration.

An artist date is ‘a block of time especially set aside and committed to – maybe two hours a week – that you pre plan and defend against all intruders’. It’s time you set aside to do something fun and creative. It’s something you do on your own – and the only other person you have with you is your inner child. Or your inner artist. It’s a play date with them. Like spending quality time with a real child – when spending time with a parent matters more than money spent.

This matters

In an organisational world we mostly work to data and processes, trying to get to a result in the shortest and fastest time. We account for our time in tiny blocks of sometimes 15 minutes and our movements and productivity are constantly monitored and under surveillance. We leave our emotions at the door and we are sometimes more replicant than human (you’ll need your Blade Runner head on for that one).

We need to counterbalance this. We need to make conscious choices to bring in things of the soul.  At least, I do.

Cameron says ‘any extended period or piece of work draws heavily on our artists well. Overtapping the well, like overfishing a pond, leaves us with diminishing resources. We fish in vain. Our [inspiration] dries up and we wonder why.’ So there’s good reason why we need to stay connected to what inspires us.

My resistance

Yet I find this difficult. I am results oriented with a very long and task-y To Do list and things need to feel purposeful. I value productive outcomes and getting things done and find it hard to do things for the sheer joy and delight of it. It’s not always easy for me to access play.  My inner playful child gets neglected and overlooked.

And Cameron knows this sort of resistance. She says ‘watch your killjoy side try to wriggle out of it. I’m too busy, I don’t know what I’d do … might all be good excuses’. Yup, that’s me, I definitely have an inner killjoy.

My commitment

Cameron encourages us to do what intrigues us, explore what interests us: think mystery not mastery. Like Mary Oliver says in Wild Geese, ‘you do not have to be good – you only have to let the soft animal body love what it loves’.

OK. But a bit like Julia Roberts in The Runaway Bride who doesn’t know how she likes her eggs in the morning because she’s always just said she loves them just as her current man does, I’m not sure I fully know what I love to do. I mean, I do in many ways – art galleries, swimming in the sea, 5 Rhythms dancing … but what else might I love and have fun with?

Because these things are (almost0 easy. They’re big ticket items that I can plan in. I can do my artist dates. But what about finding the playful and the pointless-but-enjoyable in the every day? What about the tiny moments of wonder that are always there, if give myself permission to find them?

So as well as doing what I know I love, I’m also going to explore and see what I didn’t even know I enjoyed.

I’m making a commitment to my inner artist and inner creative child to get to know her a little more and bring her out to play. Sure, I’ll book the Bonnard exhibition. And make sure I dance more. But as I need a bit more help with those little moments, I’ve also just signed up to Tiu’s online The Possibility of Wonder course to see how my inner artist might deal with my inner killjoy …

I’ll make sure I update you in the next few months and let you know how I’m doing 😊

And two other good things:

2. The first is the difference a great venue makes to a programme. I was back working at Wallace Space last week, for the first time in a while. And it was so refreshing to have staff available everywhere for easy and gracious support, a delicious hot lunch cooked fresh every day and a super healthy breakfast available to all. Snacks and drinks – from smarties to smoothies – available on a ‘if you want one, please take one’ basis. So generous and so adult. If you’ve not ever looked at them as a training space, please do, they are amazing.

3. I crowdfunded something this month for the first time. The Common Room is a new initiative set up by the people at Age of No Retirement. This small-yet-mighty organisation is committed to strengthening the relationships between the generations and ‘creating a world where age doesn’t define us’. And The Common Room now exists to bring people of all ages, and all generations together to share knowledge and experience, tap the perspective of other generations to help them with what they’re working on and also pool what they know and to help to solve knotty social problems. An amazing initiative and I am so excited to see how it develops.

Have a great February and I’ll see you at the back end of it.

You can always find me on Twitter @HelenaClayton in the meantime.

Helena x

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