Before the first step

It’s often when the clock strikes midnight on 31 December that I feel the pages turning over – the closing out of the life I’ve scribbled over the past 12 months and the fresh, clean sheet placed in front of me, waiting for what flows next from my pen.

But this year, that moment has come five weeks early.

I’ve started a new role at work, after a long handover period that left me time to think – a precious commodity in today’s hyperconnected, always-on world and the ridiculous pace of agency life.

And I feel like my pages are resetting themselves now.

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On the Road Again…

In 2006, I was hit head-on by a drunk driver in Colorado. While I escaped serious physical injuries, the event left me mentally traumatised and I suffered flashbacks for years. One of the unexpected joys of living and working in London was the proliferation of public transportation options.

I spent many happy years without driving, though I did my fair share of grumbling about the freezing cold train platforms waiting for connections on the evening commute or the packed tubes with dodgy men and their wandering hands or the seemingly endless number of people coughing on me.

But I knew when we moved to Yorkshire that I’d have to get behind the wheel again. And in the past two weeks, I’ve driven more miles than in the previous five and half years down south. And, slowly, very slowly, I’m starting to remember the joys of driving. Continue reading

The Art of Walking with Henry David Thoreau

I believe in the forest, and in the meadow and in the night in which the corn grows.

There have been many times I’ve stood before the vastness of nature – taking in the valley views from a mountain top, watching the ocean throw its waves against the shore – and felt myself small, even insignificant. It’s a feeling I cherish, knowing that, in the grand scheme of things, my worries and quotidian affairs are unimportant.

It is the perspective that I seek when I go walking and one that Henry David Thoreau captures so eloquently in his essay Walking (free e-book | public library). It is the essay that contains one of my favourite quotes:

I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk, I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to Society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is – I am out of my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?

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Finding a job to love

My husband and I are relocating from London to West Yorkshire because he is making a career change, one that aligns his day job closer to his values and work that is meaningful to him. He is taking the skills and experiences he’s built over ten years in business and using them to affect positive change in a community. It’s brave and bold and inspiring.

And of course, the move means I need to find a new job too. This is both daunting and exciting. It’s a natural break that allows me the opportunity to pause and reflect on my own working life over the past ten years and identify what’s gone well and what I might want to do differently in the future.

There is an exercise that Tina Seelig, an author and faculty director at the creative and innovative Stanford Technology Ventures Program, has her students do that I turn to in moments like this. She asks them to write a failure résumé. That sounds very American to me now after having lived in England for five years, but stick with me.  Continue reading

The perfect cup of tea

When I first moved to England, my husband made the tea. Proper Yorkshire Tea. No sugar. Just a splash of milk. There is an art to making the perfect cup of tea, and it’s some blend of science and magic that leads to the desired result. My husband’s tea was strong, but not bitter. Almost nutty and creamy. It was like a warm and comforting hug.

My first attempts to make him a cup of tea failed. At first, too milky. Then, not milky enough. Steeping also proved difficult. Some days, it would be weak and thin, regardless of leaving the tea bag in for five minutes. Other days, even one minute would be too long, leaving me with floating bits of god-knows-what along the top and a disappointed look from my husband.

But I’ve persisted and after five years have almost nailed it. It’s high praise indeed when he takes a sip, nods and says, ‘That’s a good cuppa’.

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What I Learned Working at Agencies

Today is my last day working at a digital agency.

Monday I move client-side, and I can’t wait! However, like the reflective introvert that I am, I wanted to note down what I’ve learned from working at agencies and what I’m taking with me.

A quick tally…eight years, five agencies, two countries and dozens of clients. Roles I’ve held: copywriter, account manager, producer. Industries I’ve worked across: politics, financial services, hospitality, beauty, fashion, travel. Specialisations I’ve developed: direct mail marketing, subscription-based marketing, website design and build, email marketing, social media marketing. Photo shoots I’ve assisted: three. Video shoots I’ve managed: one. Influencer activities I’ve organised: upwards of ten.

No wonder I’m knackered! Continue reading

Blurred lights of a city at night

Tap into new possibilities with Tina Seelig’s reframing exercise

I recently came across Tina Seelig’s work through Srini Rao’s Unmistakable Creative podcast and played it on repeat at least three times. I may play it again after publishing this because it’s that good.

Her suggestion on writing a failure resume – collecting all your biggest screw-ups, personal, professional and academic – and taking time to understand what went wrong and what could be done differently in the future may be the most important advice I’ve come across this year.

But I wanted to explore another theme in the podcast: that of re-framing questions. Continue reading