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The Creative Process

The Creative Process

I often get people saying how lucky I am that I’m creative, but I honestly believe everyone is creative at heart. It just shows up differently for different people. And I think we should all be cultivating our creativity in one form or another, in our lives and in our businesses/careers. So this week’s blog is a guest post from the lovely Laura Oldfield of The Key To It All and it’s all about the Creative Process. I hope you enjoy it!

Five reasons why cultivating creativity should be a top priority in your small business and life

the image reads:
All the ideas
This is brilliant
Is this brilliant?
This isn’t brilliant
This is AWFUL
This might be ok...
Is it going to be ok?
This is brilliant!

Perhaps you’ve seen this (or a version of it) before. Certainly if you’ve ever embarked upon any kind of creative project or work you’ve almost certainly experienced this process.

Or perhaps you’re considering clicking away from here, as you’re thinking “creative?! That’s not me, and anyway why is it relevant to my business and life?” As the fantastic Edward de Bono says:

“the brain is a wonderful device for allowing incoming information to organise itself into patterns. Once these patterns are formed…we use those patterns in the process known as perception. The patterns are not symmetric. The lack of symmetry gives rise both to humour and to creativity. This then is the logical need for creativity. It is the logic of self-organising patterning systems.”

Essentially, creativity is not just a wonderfully joyful experience, but rather a way of allowing our brains to organise information, in a way that leads to powerful and transformative decisions. Here’s five reasons you should cultivate it (and some ideas as to how to do so):

1. Creativity stops us pre-judging

By all means, look at the data. There is so much available to us and you would be foolish to ignore it (I recommend Google Analytics for your website as a top prioirity. Instagram Business Accounts have fantastic data you can use (but you could just as easily explore Facebook or Tiktok – we also love our Pinterest account for helping us learn more customers), and don’t forget your all important email newsletter sign-ups! Of course this data can teach you so much about the people who you serve. But it shouldn’t ever be the sole place from which you make decisions. The extraordinary thing about your business and work is you and your ideas. The data might sometimes suggest that a new idea of yours is not going to work, but let’s not forget that creativity encourages logical thought ultimately. Creativity allows us to take informed risks, that data alone would not.

2. Creativity allows us to create new ideas from old experiences

We do this by a) revisiting old systems and disrupting them; b) revisiting old ideas and adapting them and c; revisiting old beliefs and examining them. An example of this might be imagining how you might have handled a situation differently, or how another person might handle the same situation. It might be brainstorming how you want your customer to feel when your product lands in their lap, and writing a description of the process from them finding you, to making an order to receiving their purchase. These kind of imaginings can ultimately lead to some very strategic and ordered planning and processes.

3. From Creativity comes the “Creative Challenge”

The creative challenge is one of the most exciting parts of creative thinking, in both work and at home: it encourage us to ask why do we do it this way?

That question can be so powerful: why am I selling this way? Why am I on this social media? Why do I launch at particular times. It can also be used in the home. Why am I buying this? Why do I have this reaction as a parent? Why do I keep going to bed late? Thinking laterally in this way is often prompted by some responses:
Because we always have
Because it’s what other people do and it works
Because it worked for us before
Because other people like it

The creative challenge doesn’t seek to dismiss everything we have done thus far; rather it is an opportunity for lateral thinking, reflection and growth.

4. From the Creative Pause comes mindfulness

You write your to-list. You start frantically firing off emails. You end up in a Facebook thread replying about the best kinds of email marketing hosts. The Creative Pause forces us to stop and ask two things: 1) why am I doing this and; 2) are there other possibilities right now that would make this easier/ more efficient/ more joyful. Some practical methods for achieving the Creative Pause come from a) using affirmation cards; b) using a timer (google the Pomodoro Technique for more on this); stopping and naming 5 things that are a particular colour, 4 things yu can hear, 3 things you can smell etc.

It’s worth noting that the creative pause can be a massively extended moment of frustration – a feeling of stasis in your work, until one day it all “clicks”, and you realise your brain has been working hard to find creative solutions all along.

5. Creativity reminds you that you are a human who needs and deserves to be being, not just doing (and reacting).

Creativity can be found in so many ways – when you go for your morning walk and the nature inspires an idea in you; when you’re running through a process and you come up with a third step that will make all the difference; when you’re having to be resourceful and in doing so come up with an inventive and materials/ money-free solution. Switching off from “work” to carry out more traditionally “creative” activities (colouring, music, making things with your hands etc) can also be when you get the “aha” moment!

Finally, here’s 10 quick-fire ways to encourage creativity (and one myth buster).

MYTH BUSTED: Creativity isn’t just for the “talented” …or the “rebels”… or the “left/right” side of the brain. Creativity and art aren’t the same. You don’t need to “release” to be creative. It’s not all about “intuition”…or being “quirky” …or taking a scatter-gun approach.

The Key Cards
  1. Get rid of the drainers and attract the radiators (this can be applied to habits – your phone and doom-scrolling versus reading some amazing blogs or listening to a TED talk and to the people with whom you spend time).
  2. Hide your phone. No, seriously. Hide it.
  3. Free writing – google Morning Pages and thank us later.
  4. Buy The Key Cards and Affirmations for Creatives (the latter on pre-order soon). The former is 90 energy-enhancing, inspirational prompts, tasks and affirmations so you never have to have that “where do I start” feeling again. Enjoy having your very own coach, mentor and cheerleader in your pocket. There are 20 cards in there specifically and solely designed to boost creativity (though having used all 90 they definitely all do that!)
  5. Do something different and write a haiku (5,7,5 syllables).
  6. Work with your energy not against it (The Key Cards massively support this) – if you’re feeling stuck and like it’s just not working then that’s ok – break up the routine and do something entirely different (and ideally not related to work – rest often triggers amazing subsequent levels of productivity).
  7. Chuck in some scary deadlines – and see how your brain reacts – I bet you get inventive!
  8. Collaborate collaborate collaborate – we are obsessive about this at The Key to it All – bouncing ideas around is simply the best way to develop (and it proves that nearly always community wins over competition).
  9. Allow yourself to fail – yes in trying new things you’ll create a lot of stuff and nonsense. You’ll also create gems, even if they don’t appear to be at first.
  10. Keep going. Yes we value rest at Team Key. But we also value you valuing yourself and showing up. Keep going – we’re rooting for you!

At The Key to it All we help incredible small business owners, creatives and freelancers plan and run their work and life in a more productive, easy and confident way, using our beautiful products for work and the home, E-Courses, community, events and workshops It is founded and run by proud multi-hyphenate and Mum of two, Laura Oldfield.

Laura Oldfield

You can find The Key to it All here:

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Printable Christmas Gift Tags

printable christmas gift tags

Fancy some printable Christmas gift tags? This week I wanted to give you something to say thank you for visiting my blog and all the other support you’ve shown me.

The gift tags designs are based on some of the illustrations I’ve done for my Christmas card collection so you can also buy a card to match too if you like.

To get your gift tags, just sign up as a VIP subscriber below. Next week, when I send out my monthly newsletter, you’ll get your printable Christmas gift tags as well! If you’re already a VIP then you don’t need to do anything, they’ll arrive in your inbox next week anyway!

become a vip now

My subscribers are really important to me, so I do my best to treat them well (they are VIPs after all!)

Why you’ll love being a VIP!

When you subscribe you’ll get access to a couple of other freebies immediately. Every so often I also send out an additional treat in the monthly newsletter. You’ll also get a 15% discount off anything in my online greeting card shop (or 10% off in my Etsy store) – every time you shop!

When I release a new collection you will get other special offers too. Sometimes it will be a bigger discount, sometimes a free gift, sometimes another offer like BOGOF or similar. So it really is worth your while to sign up if you like my cards 😊

I only ever send out a newsletter once a month so you don’t have to worry about getting inundated like the cat on the right! The only exception is when you first sign up. You’ll get a few introductory emails within the first couple of weeks. This is just so we can get to know each other a bit better. After that it’s just once a month. Because I’m all about the drawing, not the writing…

My newsletter will also update you on any new blog posts that I’ve added, as well as new products in my shop. And obviously you’ll be the first to hear when I release a new collection!
Of course you can always unsubscribe if you decide you’re no longer interested. Even if you just want to get your hands on the gift tags next week, you could unsubscribe as soon as you get them. But you’d be missing out 😉

So sign up now and enjoy your freebies. And I’ll see you in your inbox next week with your printable Christmas gift tags – I can’t wait!

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A Gift Wrapping Station

Gift Wrapping Station

Why on earth would you need a gift wrapping station? Well partly so you can feel smug and organised, but mostly because it makes life so much easier when you need to wrap a whole load of presents! It’s really frustrating when the stuff you need is all over the place and as soon as you sit down to start you realise you’ve forgotten the sellotape or run out of paper…

The best part is that a gift wrapping station doesn’t have to take up a lot of room. There are so many great hacks for creating one in whatever space you have available. And even if you’ve left things to the last minute you’ll still have everything to hand.

A sideboard gift wrapping station

I use a set of drawers for mine. The bottom drawer is the perfect width and depth for rolls of wrapping paper, brown paper and tissue paper. The middle drawer holds all the stuff I hoard save for making my wrapping look pretty. Things like ribbons, twine and bows, gift tags and other cute bits and pieces… (take a look here to see what kinds of things I keep ‘just in case’). It also holds gift bags and little gift boxes I’ve kept from presents I’ve been given. The top left drawer has a box of cards, scissors and sellotape in it. (The top right drawer holds other stuff that’s not related to gift wrapping 😄)

A gift wrapping station in a cupboard

If you have the space a cupboard would also be great. There are loads of great ideas on Pinterest for this, including using tension rods to keep rolls of wrapping paper in place and using baskets or tubs to organise other bits and pieces. You can also use kitchen roll/paper towel holders attached to the inside of the door for holding rolls of ribbon and washy tape.

A mounted gift wrapping station

If you don’t have any storage space available, then you can easily create a wrapping station that’s mounted on a wall or door.

Here’s a quick video to show you how to use the inside of a cupboard door.

Or you could use pegboard that’s mounted on any wall. It’ll make life easier if you put it near a desk or table so that you have a surface to do the wrapping on, though I’ve often ended up wrapping on the floor anyway 😆

Peg board gift wrapping station

A wrapping kit in a box

If you really can’t find anywhere to create a gift wrapping station, then the next best thing is a gift wrapping kit in a box. Any box that will hold your supplies in will do. It’s just so much more convenient when everything you need is in one place. And this has the advantage that you can just carry it to wherever you want to do the wrapping.

Just do it…

The great thing is you can go as minimal or as crazy as you like depending on the space you’ve got available. If you really want to get gift wrapping station envy, then take a look at these ideas on Pinterest... I think I’d have to either win the lottery or become a professional gift wrapper before I could ever justify the space taken up by some of these! But even the smallest, simplest solution is worthwhile, so go ahead and create your own in your own way.

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Custom Illustration Prints as Gifts

Custom illustration prints - Eiffel Tower

As well as selling greeting cards and doing custom cartoon portrait cards, did you know I also do custom illustration prints that make great personalised gifts? You may already have seen some of the cartoon portrait prints I do, but enjoy doing other custom illustration too.

I was approached recently by someone who had seen this drawing of Tower Bridge that I did a while ago. She want a collection of specific landmarks and places in the same style to put in some new frames she and her husband had bought, including the Tower Bridge illustration.

Here’s what I came up with. She chose the subject of each custom illustration print and let me know what size they each needed to be to fit her frames.

Custom illustration prints - Lions at Trafalgar Square
Lions at Trafalgar Square

Little Mermaid Copenhagen
Little Mermaid Copenhagen

Lyme Park
Lyme Park

Stippy Stappy St Agnes
Stippy Stappy St Agnes

The Ritz
The Ritz

The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

Each of those places was special to her and her husband in one way or another so now every time they look at their prints they’re reminded of the memories associated with each illustration.

I loved doing completely different illustrations to my usual for this order – I do enjoy doing the cartoon portraits, but it’s nice to have a change as well 🙂

A custom illustration of a place or topic that is special to the person you’re giving it to would make a really great personalised gift that you know they’ll love. And I’m happy to adapt to a variety of different styles to suit your tastes, from the detailed monochrome drawings above to my usual cartoonish style, or perhaps something in-between.
Here’s an example of a custom cartoon family portrait I did earlier this year for a wonderfully loyal customer – this would be ideal as a Christmas or birthday gift for parents or grandparents. If you’re interested in the process behind this particular portrait then I wrote about it here: My custom cartoon portrait process.

Custom illustration prints
So if there’s anything particular you have in mind then please feel free to get in touch. My cartoon portraits are all available to order in my shop, but if you’d like something more customised or even completely different, like the landmark illustrations, then I’m always happy to quote based on the time it will take to complete.