Coming Full Circle & Not Giving Up

Real Talk: Our First Year We Heard Crickets

Four years ago, Emily and I launched the first Creative Soul Weekend offering and heard… crickets.

We had put together the weekend of our own personal dreams - there was yoga, there was creativity, food was all included, and there were two lavish nights in a dreamy cabin. The price tag was around $400. Although we had lots of friends interested in coming, no-one signed up. Too pricey, was the feedback.

Well, fair enough. I mean, who were we? No-one had ever been to a “creative soul weekend” before. (Except the two of us and our friend Aleena the year before, the proto-CSW in St Peters). Personally I wouldn’t plunk down $400 either if I didn’t know what I was getting in return, no matter how promising and shiny the website looked. (And it did look great.)

But the cabin was already booked, we’d already paid for it. We couldn’t just cancel! We really wanted to make this work. So we regrouped and decided to eat the cost of one night at the cabin, and just stayed there ourselves. We cut the retreat back to one night, got rid of one of the workshops, and said that food would be potluck - each participant would be responsible for bringing some food. The cost dropped to $200 and we sold out.

>> And then we actually DID the retreat. And it was even better than we had imagined.<<

And we did it again the next year, and the next. Each time, we listen to the participants’ feedback, learn from it, and change the retreat slightly, expanding it slightly each year. And now here we are, four years later, and this year’s offering is pretty much what we dreamed of in that first year! And we’re one spot away from selling out.

So what does that tell us?

It tells us that the old cliche “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again” is true. Only it’s more like, “if at first you don’t succeed, tweak the offering again and again.”

It tells us to put the work in, one day and one year at a time.

It tells us to TRUST your gut. We felt there was magic in this idea, there was something there that other women would want too. Isn’t that what’s at the core of creativity, anyway? You create something out of nothing… and to do that you have to trust yourself.

I feel there are more lessons in this than just those three… if another one jumps out at you, feel free to share it with us!

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We're on retreat tomorrow!

We'll be gathering beach side for a weekend of creativity, connecting, goal setting and complete relaxation. We'll likely be quiet over the next few days as we soak in as much as we can. But we'll be sharing all the goodness and magic with you next week when we are settled back in at home. 

Bummed you can't make it this year? Try to take a moment for yourself this weekend and see what you can do to bring a little Creative Soul Weekend inspiration into the mix! 

Take Care,

Leah and Emily 

An Interview with: Jacquie Blanchard

Freelance Graphic Designer

www.jacquieblanchard.com

I'm a freelance graphic designer living in the North End of Halifax, with my partner and our dog, Indy. I grew up in Sydney on Cape Breton Island, where a majority of my clients remain. I really enjoy working with new small business in the communities where I grew up. I coordinate a monthly local meet-up for creatives, entrepreneurs and small business called Tuesday's Together as part of the Rising Tide Society where people come together to learn and support one another. I'm also eating hoof prints ice cream from the bucket while trying to form full sentences (sun brain?! in this heatwave!)

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What if any boundaries do you have in place for your creative time?

Since I work for myself, I consider it essential that I take evenings and weekends off. Occasionally I’ll work an evening if I need to but turning my brain off at 5pm helps my everyday mood. In addition to this, I try hard to maintain a consistent sleep schedule because that directly affects my focus during the day.

How does your creativity impact other areas of your life?

I think when creativity is part of your job every day there has to be other creative outlets to satisfy the need to make and experiment. If I have a rough day I look forward to making a simple, well-cooked meal and I enjoy being creative in the kitchen. It also takes all my focus so I need to turn my brain off from work. For me, having other creative outlets takes off a bit of pressure from focusing so much on ‘perfecting’ my skills in one area.

Do you have any experience with burnout? How did you or are you overcoming this?

Welll… I quit my job and moved to the other side of the world to freelance.
I wouldn’t recommend that to everyone but it was something I knew I needed and had been thinking about for quite a long time.  After some severe burnout, I approached any issue I had a bit more analytically in that I asked myself, “What is the cause of this problem?” “What can I do right now to fix it or make it better?” Most times the answer is rest, or reaching out to friends or family. I think intentions always have to come back to ‘what matters most, to me’ because it’s very easy to get caught up in what ‘we think we should be.’

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Refilling Your Creative Cup:

Drawing, painting, photography, and whatever I get my hands on. Lately I have a big interest in home decor and architecture so consuming and learning about that makes me feel excited and inspired.

Community:


I use Instagram as my online community by sharing parts of my life and business and think of it more as a conversational community space than just a social platform. This spring I took over running the community group Tuesday’s Together which is serving as a wonderful way to connect and support local creative entrepreneurs in the Halifax area.

Nature and time Outdoors:

Being outside every day has become a necessary part of life for me. Having a dog that needs walking means it does happen most days. I'm a big day dreamer and walking allows any stress, ideas, or anything else to have space and work itself out.

 

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What is something you have always wanted to try?

Carpentry… hm.

What do the words "creative power" mean to you?

Creative Power to me means the magical feeling when you’re truly expressing an idea, or yourself in any form. I’ll call it the ‘flow’ which I don’t think really happens that often. Most times I need to sit down and force myself to be creative, even if it’s for fun. To sit down and draw because I know I enjoy it - even if nothing particularly interesting comes from it. The act feels more important and powerful than the result.

Who inspires you artists? coaches? speakers? authors? people in your personal life?

Most definitely women in my personal life. The extra love, gentle push and ability to be open is what helps me take risks when I’m unsure. Artists, go-getters, writers, poets, gardeners, and most creative endeavours inspire me when someone is really devoted to their craft.

What advice to you have for someone struggling with creative blocks?

If you have time, take the break. Or try something different. Definitely take pause. I think creative blocks are more than normal and necessary parts of living a creative life.  

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Suggestions!

Something to Read - Motherhood by Sheila Heti

Something to Watch - Abstract: The Art of Design, on Netflix

Something to Listen to - I’ve had this instrumental on a lot lately. I love it

Something to Make - A short list of what fills you up when you’re feelin’ down


Keep Up With Jacquie:

Website   Instagram   Facebook   Pinterest   LinkedIn

 

 

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*Thanks for all the great photos Jacquie!! <3


We Made a Playlist for You!

We've put together a playlist of some of our favorite tunes for feeling creative. There's a mix of genres and songs to pump up your creativity and others to calm down and relax. Turn up the speakers or grab your headphones - however you like to get creative we hope this list adds to your experience. 

Check out the playlist here on Spotify! 

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Creating What You Want

True story - Creative Soul Weekend exists because I didn’t have the money to attend Designer Vaca.

Leah here - In 2013 I heard about this amazing thing called Designer Vaca. A gathering of all female graphic designers in the desert in California at the Palm Springs Hotel. And back then, retreats weren’t as popular as they are now. The only other retreats I’d heard of were the ones my dad did with the Buddhist community locally. But this one captured my imagination.

I checked out my bank account and nope, definitely wasn’t going to be able to swing a plane ticket to Palm Springs, plus accomodation and food and the registration fee.

So I did the next logical thing: I started a Facebook group. I added all the female graphic designers I knew locally (which was maybe 10?) and the link to Designer Vaca and said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be amazing to do something like this here?”

People added other people to the group that they knew, and then this girl named Emily Chafe (at that time she was not yet married to Mr. Rankin) messaged me and said “Hey! I want to help!” I didn’t know her at all before that but we hit it off right away.

Over the Internet we schemed and dreamed. We posted in the Facebook group to get opinions but essentially we made the decisions. That first year, we were hoping for at least 10 gals (that’s how many roughly had said were interested) and we booked rooms at the Bras d'Or Lakes Inn. We got a yoga instructor to take us on a guided hike to a waterfall, and then do yoga on a beach. And her husband was an artist and he offered to do a studio tour. In the end it was just the two of us and my friend Aleena who were able to attend this proto CSW (the name had not yet been coined, that would be the following year), but we still got the magical vibe from it that we were hoping for, the seed which told us “we have something here”.

It’s like eating at a super fancy restaurant and then going home and recreating the dish yourself with your own ingredients. Of course it will not be the same as the restaurant dish… but it will be more affordable, and you’ll actually put your own creative spin on it and perhaps make it even better.

Recently I got an email from a famous yoga teacher that I admire, advertising her latest retreat. It’s on the Oregon Coast, and she’s combining it with a badass boudoir photographer that I also admire. I want so much to go, but it’s easily a $4000 trip. There is no way I can afford that.

But instead of feeling bad because I can’t afford such a luxe and delicious self-care experience, and dreaming of a bank account with far more zeros after it than mine currently has, I think: well, how could I get a similar experience closer to home? First of all, there’s Creative Soul Weekend. Second of all, is there some as-yet-uncreated gathering that I could create, or support another entrepreneur creating?

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We've put together a playlist of some of our favorite tunes for feeling creative. There's a mix of genres and songs to pump up your creativity and others to calm down and relax. Turn up the speakers or grab your headphones - however you like to get creative we hope this list adds to your experience. 

Check out the playlist here on Spotify! 

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An Interview with: Robin Scott

A social worker from the East Coast of Canada and founder of www.thediaryofanempath.com - A site devoted to Empaths and our unique set of energetic and emotional needs.

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What do the words "creative power" mean to you?

Creative power is the sacral chakra! But also, a power to heal. Because I feel strongly that embracing our creativity is how we heal ourselves and in turn, humanity. Because reclaiming our creativity is reclaiming our power, especially as women. For so long we’ve been told who we are and how to be and creativity is our way of saying, no more. “I’m going to do it my way ~ I’m going to be ME.”

 

You send out a weekly self care reminder to your newsletter list which reminds us to be aware of and honour own needs. In your experience why do you think it so difficult for us to truly take care of ourselves?

As Empaths, our energy system is designed as a chalice (a cup) so it’s easy to pour ourselves empty.

We’ve been taught this is a good thing, but as we learn, we learn it’s not. We need to be balanced. My reminders work to activate the lower chakras by sharing what I’m personally working through  because we are a collective and are all working through the same things. I share what’s happening in my life to activate the lessons in those reading. It’s actually really beautiful and something I never planned! Writing in this way is a big part of my mission on this planet.

When we begin to work on our lower chakras and start to meet the lessons we are asked to learn, taking care of ourselves becomes a lot more natural.

We become self-centered, and from there begin to heal from a place of wholeness, not wounding.

Because giving, giving, giving doesn’t make you a good person (that’s programming we are transcending as a community) it means you have energy leaks and deep wounding (from past lives, childhood, etc.) that are screaming for attention. When we learn to give AND take, those who take learn the same ~ just opposite.

And things begin to balance naturally <3

 

You do a lot of work with balancing chakras. Can you give us a small taste of how working with chakras can affect our creativity?

Creativity is governed by the Sacral Chakra, but in Empaths, we have to work on our Solar Plexus. Because we don’t need help being creative, we need support in understanding the worth of that creativity. Especially when it comes to pay. We also have to do work on the Throat Chakra (our authenticity and how our authenticity plays a role in the collective and what it’s needing) to remember that our creativity really does make an impact on this planet and we were given a specific set of skills ~ whatever those skills might be ~ to help others and ascend humanity into a higher way of being.

I walk folks through the Empath Chakra System and give specifics on how to heal each at www.thediaryofanempath.com/chakras. It’s free!

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What if any boundaries do you have in place for your creative time?

One of the ways my creativity comes through is through ‘problem solving’ ~ I’m very creative in how I support people in working through things. And that’s why I love being an entrepreneur and creating worksheets and programs and working with people 1:1,  but for a long time I didn’t value this skillset and spent a lot of time answering people’s emails about their hardships and situations for free because it came really easy to me.

But as my community grew and I started getting more and more emails from people with their life stories I had to face myself and my lack of boundaries.

These days I am selective in who or what I respond to. I feel my way through things so my boundaries are intuitive, not concrete. But I do answer emails MUCH less and feel no shame in sending people my payment links if what they are asking for oversteps my internal sense of worth and requires they pay me.

 

Do you have any experience with burnout? How did you or are you overcoming this?

YES. The fire (Aries) in me burns me out easily. I burn out regularly. It’s just how I work. I don’t plan to overcome it, I plan to continue to heighten my awareness of it; so I can work with the energy when it’s happening. Some things that help are baths with flowers (burnout is an overwhelm of Masculine energy, water and flowers are Feminine so it balances things), going to the forest, journaling, talking with people who get me or -- napping. <3

 

How does your creativity impact other areas of your life?

My creativity is hot and cold and that leaks into the other areas of my life in both big and sneaky ways. One is that I go into a cave and avoid most things when I’m creating. Sometimes eating and sleeping! I learned early on that I don’t ‘work’ in a traditional way and that’s okay. It’s just important I communicate with those around me when I go into the creative caves because being so hot and cold can affect relationships if it doesn’t come with honesty.

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On Embracing Self Care:

YouTube videos! I love watching other Intuitives and learn about what they are going through, it makes me feel much less alone. I also love to sit on the grass and tune into my heart. And visit a spot I found a few years ago that I call the Faerie Gardens. Oh! And time with my dog ~ or any dog. But especially my pup Melanie <3

 

 


 

On Refilling Your Creative Cup:

Though I’m an Earth sign, I have A LOT of Fire in my chart.

Aries, Aries, Aries everywhere,  including my Venus sign (passions) so I like to create things only to burn them down. Again and again and again. So I expend a lot of creator energy in a short amount of time creating things and then refill my creative cup as they burn to the ground.

The release feels really good to me and gives me that space to think up my next creation.

On Nature and time Outdoors:

I’m a nature being ~ an Earth sign, and I have strong spiritual roots in Avalon (Glastonbury, England) the home of the Fae, so nature is so very important to me. I go there every day to ground, especially when life feels overwhelming.

I also sell a grounding essential oil blend based on the feeling of walking barefoot in the forest with my friend Laura in our new line, Oils for Empaths. It’s helped and continues to help me tremendously.

www.thediaryofanempath.com/oils

On Community:

I didn’t mean to start a community when I first started out. I just wanted to shine light on the programming that has kept Intuitives (Empaths) feeling small. I thought I wanted to be ‘an Academic’ and just produce content for others to consume. However, over the past year or so this has changed and community has become very important to me and the diary! It built itself organically because I decided to share authentically  ~ the ups and downs. I share everything and others relate because they are going through the same things. 

I build through writing but also through the creation of free and paid workshops/worksheets and programs.

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I feel strongly that embracing our creativity is how we heal ourselves and in turn, humanity.
— Robin Scott

Who inspires you artists? coaches? speakers? authors? people in your personal life?

This changes daily. My intuition leads so I can adore someone and feel ‘meh’ about them the next day. Because I’m drawn to them as I need them, and then not when I don’t. It’s all based on light codes; a light language. We are drawn to those who have the codes we need to activate our DNA to move us to our next place.

Right now I am inspired by Stacia Ashe, a poet and member of my soul family.

I am also drawn back to Rebecca Campbell and her work with Rise Sister Rise.

And because I’ve been in my Feminine and needing to rely a bit on the Masculine around me, I am feeling deeply inspired by my Twin (Flame) and his courage and ability to stay grounded through challenging things.

 

What advice to you have for someone struggling with creative blocks?

Walk away.

And listen to your body;

If your body is stressed or acting funny, it’s trying to tell you something. It knows what is right or wrong (for you) long before you do consciously. Pay attention, and know that what you are wanting to create will be created in perfect timing.


Suggestions!

Something to Read - Your own surroundings and what the external world is trying to tell you about yourself internally.

Something to Watch - How you react to others and if it’s coming from a place of empowerment or a place of wounding.

Something to Listen to - Your own heart, the deep whispers of your intuition.

Something to Make - Changes to your life, it’s okay to let go of things.

Somewhere to Visit - Home, whatever that means. Be it the stars, the earth, or home with blood family.


Some links:

New to the Empath journey? Here's a great starting place.

Still searching for your purpose? First find these four things.

Curious about the Law of Attraction? Learn how being an Empath makes you amazing at manifesting.

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*Thanks for all the great photos Robin!! <3
Taken by Briana McCarron and Lisa Delorey.


An Interview with: Danielle Bryson

Health and Wellness Practitioner for 20 Years • Compassionate Care Assistant • Yoga Teacher & Nidra Teacher • Reiki Master

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You're an advocate mental health and wellness. In what ways has building a community around your creative business benefited you and the women you work with?

Mental Health & Wellness is top priority for me. Our minds and energy swim together like two fish. Where one goes, the other follows. I try to lead by example and strive to offer a space that allows for a clear mind and positive energy. In the hopes that you take what you’ve experienced with me and share it with others. Good medicine multiplies when shared!

How does movement and yoga play a role in fostering your creativity?

Movement medicine is my main creative outlet. My body, energy & presence are fed by this movement. This is my canvas, to create a shape or sensation. To loose that internal chatter, even for a few briefs moments, is BLISS! I can reach that place best through Yoga, Dance and Song.

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Do you have any experience with burnout? How did you or are you overcoming this?

Burnout can come on slick and fast. So if your not paying attention to the amount of energy you dispense and where.....Burnout shows up knocking on the door with a fat fist and you weren’t prepared for visitors. We become short & angry when we aren’t fuelling ourselves. Check in with yourself often, ask where your engaging your energy and if your being nourished. 

How does your creativity impact other areas of your life?

As a care giver CREATIVITY is very important. Going with the flow & thinking outside the box. Creativity doesn’t always mean a physical product will be the outcome. Sometimes my creativity produces a “Feeling” and I’m all about creating a fabulous feeling for others.


On Embracing Self Care:

I schedule time for myself, the same way I put aside time for others. I define self care as ANYTHING you do solely for yourself. And I make it a priority/ like a special event marked in my planner.

On Refilling Your Creative Cup:

I surrounding myself with inspiring ladies! We are so blessed to live on such a talented and creative island. One day I’m fuelled by a walk in nature with great people. I’m moved by the wicked support I receive from my Archery Club. Or perhaps it’s signing up for an embroidery workshop at Victoria Country Creates. Filling my cup on CB is easy, sometimes it’s finding a big enough cup to hold all that is on offer is the hard part. 

On Nature and Outdoors:

I crave the fresh air above me and the solid ground below me. It reminds me of the “Big” beautiful picture. Settles my mind and ignite’s my spirit.
 

On Community:

My greatest passion and honour in life is to share healing tools. I created Black Stove Studio so my community had a safe and supportive space. This lil space in Big Baddeck is inclusive, welcoming and definitely represents my giving quirky personality.

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To me, "creative power” means standing in my truth, and sharing that truth with my community.

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What is something you have always wanted to try?

I grew up hearing the ladies in my family talk about weekly ceramics classes. Molding something with my hands and sealing it with fire! That’s something I’ve always wanted to do CERAMICS/POTTERY

What advice to you have for someone struggling with creative blocks?

Dance, Dance, Daaaaance! Shake it off siSTAR! Don’t get stuck on being stuck. This to will pass and the creative juju will once again flow. Because all blocks can be shook lose with a good solid BOOGIE!


I’m extremely fortunate to have a group of inspiring and creative ladies around me. Living on Cape Breton Island is like being a box of Light Anywhere Matches......it’s super easy to get fired up! 
— Danielle Bryson

Suggestions!

Something to Read - Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Something to Watch - The Fall By Tarsem Singh

Something to Listen to - Bat for Lashes

Something to Make - A self portrait 

Somewhere to Visit - Gampo Abbey Buddhist Monastery/ Pleasant Bay, CB

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Thanks for all the great photos Danielle!! <3 Check her out on Instagram!


Update & 2018 Details Launching Next Week!

Hey all! Leah here, coming out from the rock I’ve been under the past six months, to start off this update for all of you. Emily will chime in, in a bit, and then we have some news about this year’s retreat to share!
 
So some of you know this already just from knowing me in real life or following me on Instagram, but I had a baby this year! My son is a sweet little fellow named Aidan. He was born 5 weeks prematurely on January 10th, but he was in good shape for a premie and is now almost 6 months old and 20 lbs! It’s been amazing watching him grow from a small, 6 lb newborn to the long and chunky and lively 6 month old he is now, but it’s also been a tough go and I’ve discovered there are about a million lessons to be learned.
 
My partner and I split up during my pregnancy, so along with becoming a mom, I’ve also moved into my own apartment and been navigating life after a 6 year relationship, as well as the joys and compromises of co-parenting. It’s been a trip, to say the least.
 

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One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned these last 6 months is: When life throws a huge bunch of changes at you, it’s super, super easy to let your creativity fall right to the bottom of the priority list. Especially when caring for a newborn! The baby needs constant care, so even something as simple and necessary as taking a shower gets put off way longer than it should. Much less something “frivolous” like writing or designing or drawing… even reading! I did NOT think of reading as a creative or self-care act until this past year, when having 20 minutes to read now feels like a total luxury. I’ll often choose sleep, or mindless Netflixing, or doing the dishes, over sitting down with a good book.

So what to do when months have gone by and I haven’t written in my journal, haven’t written a blog post, haven’t made a collage, haven’t done any of the creative things I loved to do before Aidan was born? Well, I start off by berating myself… I mean, don’t we all? It’s a knee-jerk reaction, to use these lapses as evidence that we’re failures at life and will never accomplish anything, will never live the creative life we dream of or see on curated Instagram accounts.
 
But then I get tired of that. And I drum up just a little bit of courage. A little bit of “oh what the heck” spirit. And I open the computer, or turn to a blank page - or more realistically, I schedule some time in the future when I’ll have childcare or I know the baby will be at his Dad’s - and I try again. I put fingers to keys and type, or I jot down a few words. I open the novel. I sketch something.
 
Or, if I don’t have time for those things, I try to see creativity in the other things I need to do on a daily basis. I dance when cooking, or I see creative joy in setting up my new apartment and unpacking, deciding what will go where. Or I take photos while I’m out walking Aidan in the stroller. Honestly, my Instagram Stories have been my creative outlet lately! Seeing and noticing how things shift in your creative life is also part of having a creative life, I think.
 
So I guess what I’m saying is - take heart, if you too feel you have been neglecting your creative life. Chances are you have been caring for something else just as important, which has taught you lessons, lessons which you can now take back into your creative practice. Ebb and flow, right? It’s all about that ebb and flow. And you’re doing better than you think.
 
Alright, over to you Emily!
 
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Thanks Leah!

Ebb and Flow is right! Everything has a season. This too shall pass. Trust the process. It's all progress.

These are all ideas I've been holding on to tightly over the past few eventful months. One of the biggest (and most thrilling/exciting/nerve wracking) changes is that I've stepped into full time self employment this Spring. It's been a long time coming, always holding down another job because of financial reasons, enjoyment or by the end of "side gigging it", because of a desire to keep helping my father and what I didn't realize were very, very cold feet.

But there's been a shift. In my self confidence and awareness of my energy. I only have so much to give and I know I can give higher quality to my clients when I put myself and my business first. So now I'm making it do! Working with some of the coolest, big hearted businesses around helping them brand and grow their businesses and designing logos, websites and marketing that will get them noticed! I'm still photographing weddings with my husband Steve and we have lots of big things planned for the future. I'm in love with my work and am excited to do creative things every day.
 

There's a whole level of freedom now that I've never experienced before. However, it's also never been more clear to me, the importance, or rather NECESSITY of strong boundaries and clear routine to allow for the magic to happen. But no matter how much I try and "put myself first" it's super easy for my blinders to go up and fall back into work addiction.

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Days go by, then weeks and I can find I haven't gone to play with my nieces lately. I can't remember the last time I read something that wasn't glowing on a screen. And my bone's are making some weird noises because I haven't stretched my joints since who knows when and the couch has become my desk.

But because of those boundaries I mentioned before it's happening less and less. For the first time in my life I truly understand that taking moments, slowing down, and putting my own needs at the top of the list is not only a nice thing to do, it's also a game changer for my business. Getting outside, making art for the fun of it and taking time to connect with other creatives needs to be on my to do list just as much as client work, marketing and bookkeeping.

The common theme of this post is to not be so hard on yourself. Do what you can. Where you are. With what you have. Different times of your life call for different priorities. And just think of how you'll feel 3 months from now, if you start adding small, attainable, ENJOYABLE acts of creativity into your daily life. Don't think about it too hard, just let it flow. Then ebb. Then flow ;)
 

> On to the Creative Soul Weekend details! <

We've been working hard behind the scene putting together a weekend full of rest, fun and creativity! We're really excited to share everything with you. We'll be sharing the news with everyone on Wednesday the 11th but our inner circle of Creative Soul newsletter readers you'll be getting first access.

We'll be sending out an email with all the details you've been waiting for and opening up registration for newsletter readers only on Monday the 9th! That's two whole days to considering things before we go public. If you'd like to be one of the first to get the scoop then you can sign up for our newsletter here. You'll also get further updates from Creative Soul Weekend and musings on creativity from Leah, Emily and others who are living creative and inspiring lives.  

Have a creative weekend everyone!  

Leah and Emily xo