We’ve all been there. Watching wistfully from the sidelines at our competitors’ online followings, high-profile customers and sales, or all-round enviable lifestyles as we mildly indulge in cyberstalking them (social media reflects reality, right?). Then it hits: retreating into a cloud of paralytic inferiority, we wonder why we ever believed in achieving something similar. Surely, there can’t be space for us in a crowded marketplace already served so well?Read More
When it comes to designing a website for your business, which platform should you choose? To keep it simple, I’ve narrowed it down to the three platforms I use most: Squarespace, Shopify and WordPress.
Most likely, you want a website that will promote your business, generate leads and ultimately sell your products or services. It might be tempting to only focus on what you want your website to look like — and aesthetics are indeed important to generate an emotional response. But your website ultimately needs to convert visitors into customers, and for this it needs to work well.Read More
We’re all familiar with the inner critic when it comes to our creative work, but what other sub-conscious voices may be impacting our creativity? I have a theory (influenced by a form of psychotherapy called transactional analysis), that we all have a bunch of internal drives or “voices” vying for our attention in our creative life (an internal dysfunctional family of sorts!).
All these creative voices have a role to play – they’re there for a reason, but frequently they work at cross-purposes creating a sort of chaotic brawl in your head, which isn’t great for your creative mindset, confidence or productivity! As a creativity coach, one of the things I can help people with is to understand their internal creative voices, and help them to play nicely with each other (sort of like family therapy!).
Here’s a quick snapshot of just some the creative voices we have sitting behind the scenes (these are just the main ones – the nuclear family, if you will).
We all know the inner critic – that loud, judgmental one making you doubt yourself. She’s linked directly with your creative confidence. It’s tempting to dismiss her entirely her, but she actually has an important role to play, and that is to keep you safe. She’s acting on a primitive level where risk equals danger, so she tries to stop you putting yourself in precarious situations (e.g. sharing your work with others where there’s a risk of social rejection).
Unfortunately, she’s not very discriminating, in that she shouts all manner of things at you - both useful critique about your work (e.g. “that paragraph doesn’t sound great - you should move it”), and judgmental, personal comments (“you’re a crap writer – what made you think you could do this!”). Coaching can help you to tune in to her constructive comments and tune out the rest. Once you turn a deaf ear to the negative white noise, you’ll find she’s actually not so bad.
The opposite role to the Critic is the Cheerleader – that fearless, overly enthusiastic, and carefree voice that tells you that anything’s possible. It’s great to have her positive voice boosting your confidence, proclaiming you’ll be the next Shakespeare or Mozart, but this cheerleader doesn’t spend much time with her feet on the ground, so she’s a little out of touch with reality. Plus her rebellious streak doesn’t care much for your safety, so she’s happy to throw her weight around with little thought for consequences.
Needless to say, Inner Critic and Cheerleader are in constant battle with each other. Like the Inner Critic, her voice matters, but she should only be taken in small doses (plus she can be super annoying at times!), and balanced out with the other voices.
The inner creative Child is a bit all over the place - she can whisper or yell depending on her mood. Like all the voices, your inner creative Child has two sides to her. She can be curious, playful, imaginative and energetic, for example the excited feeling when struck by inspiration, or the bursts of energy you feel when starting a new piece of work. Unfortunately she can also be moody, needy, erratic and egotistical, for example, whining that she doesn’t want to get back to work, or demanding that your partner drop all his prior commitments to pick you up a tube of paint.
There’s different ways to deal with your inner creative Child when she’s cracking it. She can be tricked or bribed into behaving, or you may want to use your inner Competitor to put her in her place.
Your inner creative Competitor takes an opposite role to the Child – although both like to play games. Think of your Competitor like a serious athlete. On the plus side, she’s disciplined, focused, organised and hardworking – you get stuff done! She knows exactly what she wants and she’ll do anything to get it, but this level of control comes at a price. This disciplined workaholic can hinder your creative freedom, distance you from other parts of your life, or push you to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. Sometimes the inner Competitor just needs to take a chill pill.
The Competitor-Child interplay is an interesting one. When they’re both at their best, this pairing works really well – your Child helps soften your Competitor’s hard edge, and your Competitor provides the scattered Child with some much needed structure. If these two roles become unbalanced however, things can get messy!
Your inner Coach is the perhaps the most important role of all because she acts as a central, neutral point between the other voices. Hers is a voice of reason, empathy and objectivity. Think of her like the family therapist working with the dysfunctional family. If your inner Coach is strong, the balance between the other voices will be maintained. She’ll help to bring out their positive sides so they work together, not against each other. If however, your inner Coach is inexperienced or a bit timid, she can easily find herself overwhelmed, and won’t be able to keep the other inner voices in check. At the extreme end this could look like your Competitor coldly dictating to, and attempting to control your Child, who’s flailing around having a massive tanty.
Meanwhile your Cheerleader is running about aimlessly shouting empty motivational phrases (“You can do it – yay!”), and on the sidelines your Inner Critic is on her high horse, looking down on everyone, pointing the finger and shouting insults. Let’s not play this mental game!
The trick with our creative voices is to listen and acknowledge them all, understand their motivations and differentiate between their constructive and destructive sides. Just like real life family members, we’re stuck with them so we need to learn to live in harmony rather than conflict.
Creativity coaching can help ensure all your voices are heard, understood and their constructive sides developed. Most importantly, creativity coaching can help build up your inner Coach so you can maintain a healthy creative life (and your sanity!).
Bronya Wilkins is a creativity coach and founder of Creative Cocoon, a coaching practice dedicated to helping people connect with their creativity to increase wellbeing and life fulfilment. Bronya is passionate about psychology, self-development, and creative expression. Some of her creative hobbies include dance, graphic design, music composition, and photography. For more about Bronya and Creative Cocoon, visit her website and Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
A social enterprise run by two creative women is bringing fabrics of Northern Territory indigenous communities to the world. Magpie Goose NT is the brainchild of Maggie McGowan and Laura Egan, two young entrepreneurs based in Katherine in the NT.
Maggie and Laura work with Aboriginal art centres in four communities - Wadeye, Gunbalanya, Tiwi Islands and Maningrida - to produce screen printed fabric, designed by local artists, to be made into women’s, men’s and children’s clothing.
The name is a nod to the classic northern Australian bird, known for its distinct look and quirky behaviour.
“Magpie geese sit on top of mango trees and get drunk on the fermented mangoes,” says Maggie. “That idea is reflected in our brand; we’re bold, bright and strong.”
Maggie came up with the Magpie Goose concept during her travels to indigenous communities in the Territory, working with Aboriginal legal aid.
“I started discovering art centres, particularly the bright colours and patterns of the fabrics made there, and how they told incredible stories of that community,” says Maggie.
“I spent a lot of time going around and having a yarn. Art centres are often the hubs of communities, where artists sit down while they’re weaving or painting, and you can have a chat.”
Feeling disheartened by the underemployment in communities Maggie knew she wanted to contribute in a different way, other than through her legal work.
“There’s so much passion and interest around Aboriginal culture and products, I thought, if I can have my own social enterprise that provided employment opportunities, I could affect change.”
She and Laura pitched their case to Enterprise Learning Projects (ELP), an NT-based organisation supporting inclusive businesses in indigenous communities. ELP funded them to buy 200 metres of fabric to start the production process.
Maggie and Laura went to Bali and had a handful of garments produced in simple designs and started wearing the pieces themselves. At the end of 2016 they did a ‘soft’ launch in Darwin, before all their friends went down south for Christmas. They sold the majority of their pieces, and their customers wore the Magpie Goose garments over summer in other parts of the country, building further interest in the bold designs.
Each design tells a story of people, place and culture.
“There’s definitely a move for slow and ethical fashion and knowing the story behind the clothes you wear. Our clothing is a conversation starter.”
A lightning bolt moment came when Laura was chased through San Francisco airport by people asking her where her clothes were from.
“We then realised that there was a big demand for it,” says Maggie.
The pair started a Kickstarter campaign and reached their target of $20,000 within 24 hours, ending up with over $100,000 of pre-orders.
An important part of the business model is ensuring opportunities for Aboriginal people to be involved, and Maggie says they hope to involve people from the communities that the fabric is produced, through writing stories of the artists and designs; modelling the garments; and liaising with the media.
Maggie says that eventually she’d like to have people in each community employed by Magpie Goose NT.
“Our next steps are to visit all the communities and finding out how Magpie Goose can best work alongside art centres, to enable their growth and provide opportunities as the business expands.”
Kate Shannon is a freelance writer based in Brisbane after many years living in Darwin. She spends a lot of her time in the garden with her two little girls, and loves writing and learning about creative people, families, flowers, and plants.
Image credits: Sarah Mackie, Maggie McGowan, Callum Flinn