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  • Writer's pictureSue Bulmer

Embracing Reflection: Lessons Learned from a Year-Long Project



As I reflect on my year-long creative handmade sketchbook project #myconcertinasketchbookyear, I can't help but celebrate this mammoth creative journey, the pure unexpectedness and surprise of it all and the transformative path it has led me down. The fact I turned up every month and delivered what I set out to do made my worries of the 100day project the previous year seem laughable.


It has been life-changing and I wouldn’t have done it any differently. However, taking the time in the early months of 2024, aware of the thoughts of rushing ahead into the next ‘big thing’ but also being seasonally aware enough to know that I needed to take things slowly, reflecting on it all from different angles has made me realise the pros and cons of such an undertaking. Whilst there were many benefits there are also things I missed, things that there just simply wasn’t space for. Having this reflective time to realise that is so valuable as it has helped inform what I would like to do next.


While my focused project was incredibly rewarding and enriching, (read my last blog post for the twelve things I learned from it) it also meant that there wasn't much room for anything else. But I guess that’s life. We can’t do it all. And if we think we can, we will probably burn out trying!


In this blog post, I want to explore the gift of reflective time and the joy of rediscovering the freedom that comes with embracing lessons we learn when take time to reflect on our creative practice.


Exploring Without Constraints: One of the things I missed most during my year-long project was the freedom to explore without constraints. My project provided a welcome framework for creativity, which I felt was important for keeping me on track, but it also meant adhering to certain rules – one sketchbook each month filled with seasonal inspiration. There's a unique joy in opening up a blank sketchbook and letting your imagination run wild, without worrying about themes or deadlines. Rediscovering this sense of freedom has reminded me of the importance of spontaneity and playfulness in the creative process. I am spending this month playing with colour, exploring new materials and just enjoying (and trusting) the process without any end goal in mind. It’s very liberating.


Reconnecting with my other Sketchbooks: Listening to the Art Juice podcast Episode 238 about the Value of Sketchbook Practice, sparked a realization about my hoard of other sketchbooks in my studio cupboard and on my shelves. Someone even asked about my other sketchbooks recently in an instagram post. It felt like I had forgotten all about them. As my year-long sketchbook project took centre stage, my other sketchbooks were pushed to the sidelines, temporarily forgotten. These books are numerous and come in many shapes and sizes holding a treasure trove of memories, experiments, and ideas. Maybe I needed to take peek? Well, that's exactly what I did. Reconnecting with these forgotten gems has been like reuniting with old friends, sparking new inspiration and reigniting my passion for exploration.


Finding Balance: While saying a big fat YES to my year-long project was undoubtedly transformative, it also meant saying no to other things. Finding balance amidst the demands of creativity can be challenging, but it's essential for maintaining a sense of fulfillment and well-being. As I navigate the delicate push and pull between focus and variety, I'm planning in the months ahead to embrace the possibility and potential of saying yes to new experiences while also honoring the things that bring me joy and fulfillment. The theme will be experimentation and play. You can hear about plans for the sketchbook collaboration with Sam Waters in the Instagram live we did here.


Honoring the Journey: Ultimately, my year-long project has been a journey of growth, discovery, and finding a new part of me I didn't even know was there. I think it’s important now to zoom out, taking the time to really reflect, to look from different angle. I think it's equally important to celebrate the richness and depth of the experiences gained as well as acknowledging what I missed along the way and what there wasn't space for. I will take the learning from both and will use them to shape my creative year ahead. And I must say that it shaping up very nicely indeed. Filming has commenced for my new Free Online course - Creative Soul Discovery. If you would like to get onto the wait list click this link.


Conclusion: While focused projects have their very valued place, there's also immense value in exploring without constraints and reconnecting with the joy of spontaneity. As I continue to navigate my creative journey, having valuable time to reflect during the quieter times of the year is helping me learn to strike a balance between focus and variety. And the amazing thing is, when you run your own creative business YOU can choose your direction. There is no-one you need to ask., That in itself is creative freedom. Having found fulfilment in a yearlong structured project I've tuned into the seasonal alignment that I'm so passionate about and as Spring comes along I'm making time to tune into my body as I try out a Spring Awakening Somatic Yoga workshop.


The rest of this month will see me delving into more spontaneous explorations with less structure and more freedom. Making space makes this possible.


I wonder where it will lead?


I’m looking forward to more playfulness and spontaneity: embracing a sense of lightheartedness and play in the creative process without the pressure of a specific goal.


Who’s with me? Who else is in need of creative play?

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