Tag Archives: creativity over 60

The Power of Empowerment

I had a beautiful experience of being empowered today.

I’d been grappling with an app, trying to design a flyer. Patience is not my strong suit and before long I was ready to chuck the phone out of the window and burst into tears.

Then I remembered that someone I know uses this app, so I asked her for help.

What she did was put the phone in my hand and talk me through how the app works, letting me click and swipe to make it all happen.

‘It takes a few moments…’ she said, when I wailed ‘it isn’t working…’

‘Don’t be afraid of it…’ she added, when my finger was hovering anxiously over the screen.

At the end she said, ‘Ok, now do everything we just did and design me a flyer with black lettering that says Autumn Happiness, and save it to Facebook’.

Gulp. But I did it, as she watched, and reminded and finally applauded!

What she didn’t do through all this was make me feel incompetent or stupid. She didn’t show me what to do, she guided me to do it for myself. She stayed patient and calm.

Result, I felt empowered and excited, with a new skill under my belt. And a lesson learned, in how to best help anyone in future who ever wants to learn from me.

Flyer design, anyone? Let me help you…


The Artist’s Way for Retirement

The Artist's Way for Retirement
I have just finished working, writing, thinking, walking and dating my way through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for Retirement.

Dating? Yes indeed – taking a weekly Artist Date  –  an outing planned purely for my enjoyment, learning and delight – has been a wonderful part of the process.

On my Artist Dates I’ve sampled a silversmithing class, joined the upholstery club, browsed a huge junk furniture emporium and a vintage clothes shop, joined in with a  Buddhist meditation session, cycled to a garden centre to choose tulip bulbs, and gone to London to see a surreal exhibition by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson at the Barbican Centre. It’s very likely I’d have allowed myself none of these pleasurable excursions without the prompt of Artist Dating.

Writing Morning Pages

Julia Cameron describes Morning Pages as, ‘Three daily pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing done first thing in the morning, “for your eyes only”.’

The reality of that is an hour’s worth of pouring your guts out on to the page, which has turned out to be a lot more enjoyable and useful than it sounds.

Writing Morning Pages almost daily for 3 months began as a chore, and became a habit I don’t want to stop, and have picked up again now the course is finished, in a slightly shorter form. Free writing provides a way in to deeper thoughts, emotions and desires. I’ve unearthed dreams I didn’t even know about, and begun putting some of them into action.

Morning Pages also give a way to explore what it means to be at this stage of life, where work is no longer the driver for getting out of bed in the morning, and the family have taken themselves off and are getting their own breakfasts in cities far away. A phase of life when there may be a lot of time to be spent, without the structure that went before.

That’s exciting, but also unnerving. What if I don’t use this time properly? What is properly? Suppose I die before I’ve done anything useful with my life? What shall I do? And whatever I choose, suppose I fail? What is any of it all about?

Plenty to think about there, so it’s no surprise that following The Artist’s Way for Retirement from start to finish took more than the 12 weeks prescribed by the author, who offers one chapter per week. Each chapter focuses on reigniting a new feeling – a sense of wonder, a sense of freedom, a sense of creativity. Some chapters interested me more than others, and took longer, and I spent about 16 weeks completing the whole book.

Julia Cameron’s style is warm and encouraging, but sometimes a bit cloying for this Brit’s taste. I preferred it when the tasks and exercises were straightforward, although oddly  when I began to follow the instructions and ask for guidance in my morning writing,  answers did begin to appear on the pages. Things I’d known all the time, but hadn’t quite managed to access before.

I also found a lot of synchronicity turning up as I started to take action to change my life, as people and opportunities began to appear miraculously at just the right moment. My own take on this is that once you commit to doing something and begin it, things start to fall into place. Maybe that’s simply the same thing as synchronicity.

Writing The Memoir

Writing the Memoir, another running task through the whole book, was the hardest for me. It’s only now that I’ve reached the end, having dashed something off quickly every week,  that I realise how much has been stirred up from the depths of my memory pond. Thoughts, dreams and ideas that have been down there a long time in the silt are starting to drift up to the surface, propelling me to rediscover pursuits I enjoyed in the past but had given up on, or even forgotten.

Finishing The Artist’s Way for Retirement

So what do you do when the book’s over? My plan now is gradually to look back at what I’ve done, take some time to reflect, then begin again and go through the whole process a second time, selecting the parts I want to concentrate on. I suspect it will feel quite different, and deeper.

And this time I will write about it all in this blog – which only came into being as a result of following The Artist’s Way in Retirement. It was during Week 10, Reignite a Sense of Vitality that Beyond 60 punched its way out and started strutting around in my mind demanding that I just go online – now, please – and give birth to an idea that had been gestating for months if not years.

By pure synchronicity, finding Julia Cameron’s inspiring book came at exactly the right moment. It was 18 months since my final days of work, which had been a  period of recalibration and questioning and not knowing quite what to do. I’m still working on that, but I’ve got many more ideas and possibilities and had my curiosity and energy piqued and sparked by this excellent book.

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Live More Creatively After 60



The word pings into my mind in blue and gold. It sparkles and has curlicues. It’s rather alarming.

For a long time I gave creativity a very constrained meaning. ‘Creative’ people published novels, had exhibitions, renovated houses from top to bottom. If you’d asked, I’d have said I wasn’t creative at all. I was too busy marshalling my family’s everyday life.

Time to Live Creatively

It’s different, now that there’s time to reflect and explore. Creativity can become a way to live.

At times it can even give that start of blue, gold and glittery joy, but more often it’s a quiet glow of pleasure and satisfaction. What I know now, is that it’s a creative act to:

creativity**pick a flower from the garden and stick it in a wine bottle
**take a few minutes to compose a funny, kind or interesting text
**arrange ordinary objects in a way that catches the eye

Little acts of creativity weave a slender thread of delight through life, and make it more colourful, fun and interesting.

Bigger acts – hell, they are creative too. Raising a child. Pursuing a career. These are missions which call on us to troubleshoot, respond, decide, control – on the hoof and often with no experience.

So Many Ways to be Creative

Now that everyday life is less frantic, there are endless opportunities to bring your ingenious mind into play. Over just the last few weeks, thanks to friends who are embracing their creativity, I’ve eaten a still life of a tomato/mozzarella/basil salad; perused the draft of a novel; enjoyed a short story; heard a poem; played a duet; sat in a garden with swathes of late flowering plants tumbling over each other in a riot of colour. There is nowhere in life where creativity can’t burst out.

You can even tackle the most mundane household tasks in creative fashion. Revered Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh suggests we become fully alive even to tasks such as cleaning the loo with the advice to: ‘invest of yourself into the cleaning and make it a joyful practice’. Try it!  With this mindset there really is a pleasure to brushing and
swishing, and leaving the porcelain fragrant and glistening.

Once you’re alive to it, there are creativity chances everywhere, tiny ways to add beauty or a smile to everyday life.

Notice too how one small act of creativity leads to another, and how a string of mini creativities lead to something bigger.

Fear of Creativity

There’s a lot that can hold us back in the quest to be more creative. The anti-fun gremlins will be out in force.

What will people think? They won’t approve. I’ll look stupid. I won’t be able to do it. I never finish things. It’s a bad idea. I’m no good at….

If you’re scared of flexing your creativity muscles, remember that inventiveness can be minuscule and for your eyes only. It needn’t be enormous and out there in the world unless you want it to be. The choice is always yours.

So if you’re not yet ready to embark on the novel, just make a decision to relax, and write a couple of paragraphs every day, about anything.

Take the first small step. Take the next. That’s all there is to it. But take that first step.

Creative Choices

There are so many things to do and explore for us who are privileged to have arrived at a time of more freedom.

Sit awhile now, and think about a creative desire or two that you have.

Today, mine are to:
find a pattern to knit a pair of alpaca fingerless mitts for winter flute-playing
start a Dropbox file ‘family memories’ to share with my children
choose new colours for my kitchen that remind me of Cornwall

What are yours? Now’s the time. Please leave a comment by clicking on Leave a Reply at the top of this page, and share your creative desires.

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New Creativity Beyond 60 – Learn Upholstery

A chair in need of re-upholstery

This chair had bugged me for years. Threadbare, the stuffing hanging out, it looked pathetic. But it had a lovely shape and was so comfortable. All it needed was a spot of loving care.

‘I’ll re-cover it,’ I said.

I didn’t.

20+ years passed. The chair lived in the spare room, and then as the children grew it took refuge in a teenager’s bedroom,  buried under a sea of discarded clothing.

Even when the child was long gone, the chair stayed in her room, dusty and unloved, a reproachful un-begun project.

Impulsively one day I dragged it downstairs, tucked a blanket over to hide its shameful state, and placed it by a window in a perfect spot for a morning coffee. And there it stood, for another 18 months.

Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to start the rescue job. I was game to tackle it, but doing it alone? In the quiet house? Not fun.

YouTube? Or a teacher?

And that’s how my chair and I came to spend a morning down among the cornfields, in a warehouse near Bungay in deepest Suffolk, where upholstery happens under the expert guidance of Libby and Tam, two young professionals who met at upholstery school and set up business together as Perkins & Gibbs.

Giving it some welly with the tack-lifter

Giving it some welly with the tack-lifter

I’m set to work by Libby. ‘Get that old cover off, and let’s see what we’ve got.’

To my surprise, I love the hammering. It’s great to use my body, feel the strength of my hands, and give full concentration to prising those stubborn gimp pins OUT.

Assured and confident, Libby has a passion for bringing dishevelled chairs and sofas out of ruination and back to a state of beauty.  She peers at my chair frame, runs an expert thumb over it – I’ve missed a tack.

‘Get him out. Put the tack lifter just there, get it well under…push, push, push…use the mallet…if it doesn’t just lift out, tap down… There!’

It is so much more enjoyable to be guided, taught and inspired by a real live teacher, than to follow a video on YouTube. To share the pleasure of a tack well-lifted, and the careful process of restoration. And it’s stimulating to work with people who love their craft.

Making a thing of beauty

With a firm hand Libby smooths the calico firmly over the underlying wadding, caressing it into shape over the edge of the seat. ‘We’re going to add a lovely billowy layer of polyester wadding, like collagen under the skin [she was a beautician in a former life]. It’ll give the corners a beautiful rounded shape.’

Collagen may be seriously lacking under my corners these days, but at least I can make my chair invitingly plumptious.

There are 3 students in today, and with all of us working away there’s a good feeling of warmth and friendliness, coupled with a strong sense of purpose and creativity. I feel relaxed, at home. Nearby a puppy snoozes in a basket as its owner stretches an embroidered cloth on to the seat of the delicate bedroom chair she’s restoring. Each step is discussed and considered, and we offer opinions on each others’ work as we progress through the morning.

I’m brought tea, offered biscuits.  There’s a bit of chat, but never at the expense of the tasks in hand. Outside, seen across of the stable door, a peaceful cornfield stretches away in the sunshine.

Fabrics, with their glorious colours and textures, are exclaimed over and fondled like newborn babies . My chair will be resplendent in a bold choice of rich purple velvet trimmed with a soft orange braid. Both these colours echo shades in curtains and pictures in the room where the chair will live, which I’ve decorated freshly for this stage of my life.

‘I love the care you’ve taken to think this colour scheme through,’ says Libby and I feel as proud as if teacher had given me a gold star.

It’s about being inspired

I could have done this alone with YouTube and even made a passable job. Working here, I’m inspired and encouraged. It has cost me some money, but it’s saved me having to buy materials and tools, so the outlay is offset.

The real gain though, is in my mood of excitement and satisfaction as I drive away from the warehouse in the cornfield, until my next session when we are going to ‘tackle the back’!

And that is what exploring new interests is about now that I’m beyond 60 and am not in a rush.

It’s not just in the doing. It’s in the sharing.