friendship

Phone phobias & coaching calls

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Earlier this year I discovered, to my genuine surprise, that I really really enjoy mentoring and coaching people over the ‘phone.

It’s not the “helping people” bit that came as a surprise, it’s the “over the ‘phone” bit. I am a person who, normally, intensely dislikes talking on the telephone. Maybe it has something to do with being an introvert, maybe it’s that mobile ‘phones have made us way too accessible all the time, and I need a break. Whatever it is, I resent that jarring ring-tone when it hits me through the day, and feel flutters of undefined anxiety before I ever pick up the ‘phone to call anyone. Yes, even people I dearly love, whose company I adore and who I genuinely want to talk to. It’s not them, it’s that piece of technology attached to my ears.

Do you relate to any of this? I’m sure I’m not alone.

But late last year, people began approaching me for one-to-one help with their creative paths and, since almost all of those people lived in different cities or countries to me, that meant using the telephone. Or more accurately, Skype, but audio-only because the reception drops markedly at my place whenever we turn on video. Also because I’m most often in my pyjamas.

It was a huge, huge step for me to push myself this far outside of my comfort zone to help people in this way, and I was genuinely miserable before my first call. The immediacy! I’m no good at thinking on my feet! The awkwardness of talking to strangers! The whole phone-anxiety thing in general!

But to my complete and utter surprise, I just loved every second of that first call. As, in retrospect, makes perfect sense. What I love to do most is to see people embrace and celebrate their creative sides, and to get to be a part of that is pure joy. There were nerves on both sides at first, but no weird-stranger-awkwardness: after all, this woman had approached me. She knew me from what I shared online (and I’m pretty honest), and had chosen me because of what she felt I could offer her. We were each other’s right person and were soon in the thick of a wonderful, laughter-filled, constructive natter. I came away from that call buzzing a little (albeit exhausted), and excited for more.

So I booked more calls and the more I did the more I loved them, and that was what gave me the confidence to factor one-on-one mentoring into the Create With Confidence program I ran back in June this year. I knew that the calls would enable me to really get to the heart of what each person was hoping to gain from the course, and tailor what we did to their needs. Also, I felt as though I forged 18 new friendships!

All this is a very long lead-up to announce, with much excitement, that I have decided to formalise these coaching calls, and have opened up a small number of appointments for personal, one-on-one creative coaching with me in 2019!

Normally this is the kind of information I save for my newsletter. New courses, programs, that sort of thing, I share in there along with my templates. But I don’t know. I just have an inkling about you, dear blog friends. I already know that most of the people who read my blog are my people, do you know what I mean? You feel like friends not-yet-met. So I thought that just in case you were also wanting to overcome some creative hurdles or take things further with your creativity, you might like to hear about these calls, too.

(Stop reading here if you’ve already read about this in my newsletter or you’re not at all interested in this program, and just let me know instead if you are ‘phone-phobic too, so I don’t feel like a weird loner! But if you’re curious to know what I’m doing next year and/or if you’d like to be part of it, read on)…

What are the coaching calls?

This is where we get on the 'phone (or Skype) together and settle in for a cosy chat about you and your creative goals, and together make some plans to help you achieve them. 

You can choose a one-hour chat if there's just one thing you really want to get to the bottom of, and forge a path forward. Or you can book a three-month intensive coaching program, during which we work together with regular calls and activities in between to help you overcome your creative challenges and really affect the big changes you have been longing for. 

There’s loads more information about the coaching calls on my website now (yes, I’ve made it official), so take a read here if you’re curious.

To ensure I can give you my full attention, and to ensure my introverted soul can give you all the emotional energy you need, three-month sessions are limited in number, and only available to book for either February-April sessions, or July-September sessions.

Also, I realise that 2019 seems a million miles away right now, but we are already in October and if your November-December is anything like mine, things get pretty hectic at this time of year and we can forget to plan ahead until it’s too late. So consider this a gentle reminder if you’re hoping to give more of your time and attention to your creativity in the New Year.

Are we right for each other?

It's a beautiful, big, diverse world we live in, and the 'right people' are out there for all of us. We both want to enjoy our chats together and see the biggest transformation for you, so let’s figure this out. You and I are probably right for each other if you... 

  • are struggling with creative block, creative confidence, or the emotional side of going public with your creative work

  • need help starting or improving on the practical side of sharing your work (think social media, websites, newsletters, sales, and the like) 

  • feel a bit lost when it comes to your creative path, and that's left you feeling alone - "always on the outside looking in" (that song will be stuck in your head all day now)

  • want to create a workable road-map, with a step-by-step plan to affect the change you want to see and make things finally happen for you 

  • are hard-working, gentle, honest, open to change, and have the time to commit to really working on your goals over a three-month period to see the change you desire

What do you say? Do you want to get on the ‘phone with me? As it turns out, I would genuinely love to chat with you. Who’d ‘a thunk it?

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I'm ready to send you mail again!

snail mail I have a little Christmas present for you, my friends. Actually, I have more than one to give! 

You may remember that I used to send letters to people who subscribed to this blog, to say thank you to them for reading. I had to suspend that in July this year, when I discovered I was more than 60 letters behind in all the mail I owed. It was overwhelming, and I felt terrible for being so slow. 

But here we are a week before Christmas, and I'm all caught up. If you subscribe to this blog and you haven't already requested this mail from me, I invite you to share your address now. The sign-up form is here and I look forward to making mail for you.

UPDATE 7 Feb 2017: Aah I'm so sorry. I've been making mail as fast as I can but you guys are KEEN (I do love that!) and, as fast as I've been going, there are now 123 people on the waiting list. So I've had to disable the form again while I catch up. Again. Watch this space. 

I mentioned I have some other presents to give. While things have been quiet on this blog of late, I haven't forgotten you, and I've been working away behind the scenes to develop some resources that I hope you might enjoy. 

The first is a free monthly newsletter that will launch mid-January. Short on words but big on inspiration, it will contain an original artwork every month, that you can print out and customise into your own mail-art.  

The second is my new e-book, Making Mail. This is a 10-part guide to writing letters that will become keepsakes, by writing entertaining missives that look beautiful, survive their journeys, and make the recipients feel special. This book is free when you subscribe to my newsletter. 

I really hope you enjoy all of these gifts, and I want to thank you for sticking with me as I've developed all these resources in the background. I'm looking forward to bringing you more inspiring, uplifting, funny and creative content in the New Year, and wish you every happiness for this festive season. 

Love, Naomi 

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Things left unsaid

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This is the truth about what really happened that weekend. I have loved you for years. A secret. I have to know why you did that. I’m your biggest fan. There’s a question I’ve always wanted to ask you. I’m sorry.

Is there something unsaid lingering in your life, that is eating away at you? Is there someone out there who you wish you could tell, or ask, that one thing? But you can’t find them, or you don’t have the courage... you don’t know how they’d react?

Me too.

This blog post is a story about six degrees of separation, which seems to happen to most of us at some time or another, but it is also about snail-mail (so hooray!), and there's a way for you to find some personal resolution on those unspoken words, too. So really, there's something in this blog post for all of us. Read on, comrades!

About six months ago, I received in the mail a little book of short stories, from my dear friend Sonya. (Once, Sonya and I and my dog Oliver squeezed into a tiny, tin-pot rental car and drove across the United States from New York to Florida, into New Orleans, up to Oklahoma, and then all the way to LA along Route 66. I have been lucky to travel to a lot of wonderful places in the world, but that was the best journey I ever had). The book she sent me, Portable Curiosities, had been written by another of Sonya's friends, Julie Koh. It was full of stories that were magical and whimsical and disturbing and challenging in all the right ways. "This writer is my kind of person," I thought to myself.

Then earlier this month, Julie put out a call for participants in a fabulous new snail-mail project, planned for ABC Radio. I might not have heard about it, except that my sister-in-law, who also works for ABC Radio, did hear about it. So she sent a message to Julie, telling her about me, and Julie sent her back a photograph of my book, Airmail. Turns out Sonya had been busy sending books between us! And then my sister-in-law sent a screen-shot of part of the conversation to me, also alerting me to the aforementioned fabulous snail-mail project.

And so everything came full circle, and yesterday I reached out to Julie at last, because I think the universe was saying, "Do it!"

Onwards to the bit where you come in.

You're wondering what the fabulous new snail-mail project is, aren't you. Well, it's called Expressive Post, and here's what it's all about in Julie's words:

Have you always wanted to write a letter to a particular someone but haven’t, for whatever reason?

Is there something you want to tell another person but it’s a delicate topic, and you’re not sure how they’ll react? A topic so delicate that only a letter will do?

I’m testing a potential new show for ABC Radio National that needs letters like these.

To participate, all you have to do is:

1. Write that special letter and post it to the address below.

2. Include your name and contact details.*

As part of the test run, I’ll select the most compelling letters. Then I’ll track down the intended recipient for each letter and deliver it to them. They’ll read the letter for the first time on the show.

The address to write to, and all the other details (including the fact that you can remain anonymous if you prefer it) are on Julie's website, right here. But be quick: this is a trial program and will only go ahead if there are enough good letters and connections to make.

The deadline for the first round of letters is next Friday, 4 November, so if you want to write, especially if your letter is coming from outside of Australia, maybe drop her an email just to let her know it's on its way.

I am going to try to find the words to reach out to my best friend from high school. For years I felt like I had failed her, but I also loved her dearly, and I've wanted to reach out for a long time. I've tried in the past to reach out to her, but with no success. I don't know if she didn't want to hear from me, or if my overtures were never delivered, but they've only met with silence.

Maybe this is my chance to say, at last, "I know I failed you. I tried to be a good friend, and I did love you, but I didn't understand."

How about you? What have you left unsaid? Will you take this opportunity to find the words?

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Checking in: quitting Facebook, one year on

flowers Nope, still not missing it. In case you were wondering.

If you're new around here, here are my reasons for quitting Facebook (and Twitter, and LinkedIn), and here are some lessons I learned a month in.

One thing I feared I'd miss on leaving Facebook was the occasional clever content. Events, ideas and happenings that people posted online, that I wanted in my world.

But thankfully, friendships can exist outside of social media. Who knew!?

Back in my Facebook days, if a friend saw something that they thought I'd like, they'd tag me in the comments to let me know. "@naomibulger," they'd type, and then move on.

These days, my friends write me letters, they send me texts, they send emails. They write, "Hi how are you? I saw this on FB and thought of you. Let's catch up soon!"

And I write back. "Oh wow that's interesting, thanks for thinking of me. I'm well, how are you guys? Coffee next week?"

It's so much more personal. Quality over quantity, that old chestnut. I feel so much more connected without Facebook than I ever did with it.

And better still: my friends know me and care about me, so the stories they share are actually stories that I want to read. Stories about extraordinary kindnesses, inspiring creativity, and new snail-mail projects.

Not once has anybody written to me, "Hi how are you? This grandmother looks 20 years younger, without surgery!" Or, "Hi how are you? I saw this article about Brangelina's divorce and thought of you." Or, "Hi how are you? They told this woman she couldn't breastfeed in public and you'll never believe what she did next!"

Turns out, my friends know me even better than a piece of software. Who knew?

Keep on making bread, my friends. Keep on writing letters, brewing tea, tending plants. You don't have to quit Facebook, but do make time in your life for slow things, for tactile things, for real things. Fresh air. They will feel like fresh air.

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Valma's letters

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Processed with VSCO with a8 preset When I was a teenager, an old lady named Valma used to write me the longest letters. Easily 20 pages or more, in scrawling cursive on foolscap paper.

Valma and her husband Bill lived in a two-room hut on a little dirt road called Saddler's Lane, and I came to know them because I would ride by their place on my way to a creek at the bottom of the valley. When she heard the clop-clop of my horse's hooves, Valma would rush towards me to say hello: she got around with a funny swinging motion on two crutches, because her legs didn't work. We'd stand and chat at her old farm gate while my horse grazed nearby.

Valma would never accept my invitations to come tea at our place. She said she was too embarrassed to ever return the hospitality because her house had no floor, just beaten earth, and no water.

Sometimes I would bring her gifts of fruit from our trees, or a slice my mother had made, and hand them to her over the farm gate. After we moved away and I couldn't ride past any more, Valma and I became irregular pen pals for many years, up until she died.

Then a few months ago my parents brought some papers to my place, and Valma's letters were among them. All those memories of our old friendship came flooding back...

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Wonder, mystery, and surprise

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Processed with VSCO with a8 preset Do you like surprises? Good surprises, I mean.

Messages in bottles

Friends dropping by

Work promotions 

Letters in the mail 

Found treasure maps 

Clothes bought online that actually fit

The kids eat what you cook

Winning competitions

Surprise parties

Money in last year's coat pocket

Flash mobs

Rainbows 

Unexpected public holidays

The first flower of spring

Earlier this week I came across Surprise Industries, a group that is dedicated to creating and spreading good, happy surprises to strangers everywhere. Their simple mission is to add more wonder, mystery, and surprise to your life. Oh, I want to be them! Imagine if "giving surprises" was your life's work!

Would you like a surprise? You can sign up to receive one by joining "The Experiment" by Surprise Industries.

Banking on even the anticipation of a surprise giving you a happy little tingle, Surprise Industries promises:

"At some point in your life, we may surprise you. The surprise may be an anonymous letter, an invitation to a secret location, or anything in between. It might arrive tomorrow, 12 years from now, or never, but if you don’t sign up, you’ll never know."

The cost to join in goes up $1 per person for every 100 participants. I just took part, and it cost me a grand total of $3. Now, I wait. And while I do, it will be with the sometimes goose-pimply shiver of pleasant things to come...

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Rituals: the first cup of tea

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Mine start before the sun. I tip-toe into the children's room and turn on the AC to take the chill out of the air before they wake up, then I walk downstairs and, before anything else happens, I fill the kettle and flip it on.

All those little morning tasks: letting the cat out, turning on the downstairs heat, finding the kids' clothes for the day... all performed to the whoosh-and-hum soundtrack of rapidly boiling water.

Click. Kettle's done. Steaming water over tea, a dash of milk, that first sip so hot it's almost painful but oh so good on the back of my throat.

I take my tea and sit down. Sometimes I write, sometimes I draw. Or I write letters, read letters, listen to podcasts, read a magazine. But always, there is the first cup of tea of the day. The early morning is my special, quiet time, while the rest of my house sleeps, and I could not imagine starting it without tea.

I didn't always keep this ritual. For many years I was a "breakfast first" kind of gal, only moving to tea or coffee mid-morning. But many years ago, while visiting Melbourne on a work conference when I lived in Sydney, I stayed with my good friend Deb in her home. I was feeling a little (a lot) lost in my new job, but I mostly remember that week as a wonderful time of celebrating my friendship with Deb. She was an extraordinarily generous host. She chauffeured me around the city for my conference; took me to different pubs and restaurants every night (where we were ridiculous and believed we were hilarious like only old friends can be); and every morning, as soon as we woke up, she made me a cup of tea. The first cup of tea of the day.

All these years later, I can still picture the corner of her share-house where a tall, gas radiator was attached to the wall, like so many other old houses in Melbourne, pumping out new heat. I can still feel the warmth of the tea Deb had made me, as I cup the mug in my hands.

And every morning, when the scalding hot tea soothes my throat and kick-starts my day, I smile a little smile, and think about Deb.

What about you? What are your morning rituals?

 

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54 letters, 22 countries

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Estonia  ::  United States of America  ::  Singapore  ::  Scotland  ::  Italy ::  Portugal  ::  Canada  ::  Indonesia  ::  Morocco  ::  United Kingdom  ::  Philippines  ::  Australia  ::  Japan  ::  Germany  ::  Norway  ::  The Netherlands  ::  Arab Republic of Egypt  ::  Mexico  :: Malaysia  ::  Russia  ::  Vietnam  ::  France 

 

I sent a tiny letter to each of these countries last week. To most, I sent more than one. Each and every envelope was sent with love, and it gave me such happiness to imagine the journeys these simple scraps of paper were about to take.

To anyone who says snail-mail is dead, just look at that list. Between sunrise and sunset on a single day, 54 people from 22 countries gave me - someone they don't know and have never met - their addresses, so that I could send them a little something in the mail. There would have been more, but I ran out of letters. Why did they do it? Because each of them knows this: a letter in the mail brings joy.

Also - and I can tell you this from personal experience - sending a letter brings joy, too.

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Secret Pen Pal Scavenger Hunt: the big reveal!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Last month I took part in an annual event organised by Fab from Snail Mail Love called the Secret Pen Pal Scavenger Hunt. The way it works is that each of us is assigned one (secret) pen-pal. Fab provides a big list of potential things to send and we are to choose five items from her list.

We all revealed what we had received on the one day, and it was pretty amazing to see. (It also made me feel a bit self-conscious about the package that I had put together for my secret pen-pal. I mean I tried really hard and spent AGES gathering everything together and making it all... but once I saw what everyone else had done... and once I received the truly beautiful and thoughtful package that MY pen pal created for ME, I felt pretty insecure. Nervous! I hope my pen pal likes it).

If you want to take a look at some of the lovely pen-pal packages, search the hashtag #spsh2016 on Instagram.

The package I received from my secret pen-pal, who turned out to be a super-sweet woman called Joey, was gorgeous. Each item was wrapped in lovely paper with vintage maps, and hand labelled. I had some very enthusiastic and inquisitive help when it came to unwrapping everything, too. You're curious, aren't you! Here's what was inside those packages...

City Explorers' Kit

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∧∧ Cute little London-themed paper things

Something not square

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∧∧ Fab pen! Lovely washi-tape! Terrible photography!

Something to use while travelling

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∧∧ This is the BEST. Just fill with ink or water

Postal freak's kit

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∧∧ All the beautiful snail-mail ephemera! I will have to make something for Joey from this and write back to her

A gift

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∧∧ Joey added an extra little gift for me, a beautiful necklace that she said reminded her of the Earth. I loved it and so did Scout. Oh BOY so did Scout! This picture is blurry but I included it because will you just look at her face? That is the face of someone who, a nanosecond ago, spotted a sparkly necklace, and is now hoping against hope that maybe just maybe she might be allowed to keep it...

Something seasonal

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∧∧ Yeah, these did not last long at ALL

 

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Match-box conversation hearts

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Oh hello! *waves in enthusiastic and dorky manner* Remember me? I am so busy finishing my book that sometimes I don't get time for writing in this blog, but I have so many posts in the wings that I can't wait to share with you. Hopefully I'll get my time-management act together and can revisit this tiny and lovely community that is You Folks a lot more often. I really love this space. I love how comfortable it feels, how like-minded we all feel, even when actually we are quite different and diverse and opinionated and creative and quirky (because how boring would things be if we weren't), but on the MAIN THINGS (kindness, openness, encouragement, friendship) we are all on the same page, I think.

NEWS ALERT. Oh my goodness HOW EXCITING are the updates on the Serial podcast lately? If you listened to Season 1 but then kind of dropped back off, drop back in!! After almost 16 years, a new hearing on Adnan Syed's case is happening in Baltimore RIGHT NOW and you can follow what is going on each day on Serial. It is crazily compelling.

In the meantime, I have been having some fun lately jumping on the "decorate old matchboxes" bandwagon, creating decorated little boxes for homemade "conversation heart" lollies (from a lolly shop in Maldon, more on that soon to come), to send to folks all over the world. If you'd like to replicate this idea for Valentine's Day, it's super easy. Just wrap some paper around a matchbox to get the size right, trace the outline, then unwind it and draw/paint/paste whatever image you like before pasting it properly back onto your matchbox. I lined my boxes with paper doilies but you could also use tissue paper, cloth, foil or anything else that inspires you.

On another matter, conversation hearts! How great are they? So much vintage fun.

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