Another birthday

Another birthday

So, Creative Daydream is six years old today. I’m not sure the version of myself who left Scripture Union in 2012 would actually believe I’d still be going in 2018. I left with a vague idea of what I might do, but not even the vaguest of plans of how I might do it. And then, things started to come up. Contacts from my previous role gave me the odd piece of work, and then gave me some more. These then led to ongoing arrangements, recommendations to others and a great variety of jobs I could never have dreamt off.

So I want to say thank you for those who have supported me and stood by me in this most ill-thought through of ventures. Thank you to my clients for the work and the positive feedback. Thank you to my family and friends who have listened to me working things through and encouraged me to keep going. Thank you to the people who have used all the things I have produced. I could have done none of it on my own.

There have been times when I wondered if any work would come and there have been times when I regretted taking on a job. But these six years have also been full of creativity, enjoyment, diversity and fun. The adventure continues. If you think I can provide a service to you – writing, training or consultancy – then get in touch!

What an exciting, bonkers way to make a living.

Lost friends

Lost friends

A while ago, a friend from university (Hello Orlando!) posted a link to this article, about how friendships can slide away from you when you reach your 30s or 40s. It’s an interesting read, but I’m not sure it comes to any real conclusions as to why people, especially men, lose contact with friends when they reach this age. Is it marriage? Career? An ‘out of sight out of mind’ mentality?

I thought about this idea as I was volunteering on a primary-school trip to St Paul’s cathedral with a friend’s science and maths group. On the coach on the way back, we drove past a block of flats in Islington where Nick, my best friend from sixth form, used to live. Even before I’d seen his old place, Nick had been on my mind for a few weeks. I’d even done a bit of internet stalking to see if I could track him down. I hadn’t seen Nick for years, and it occurred to me how much I’d missed him. I recalled a time when he and I had sat either side of our friend Debbie on Salford Crescent Station and subjected her to more than one terrible (and incomplete) rendition of ‘The Farmer and the Cowman’ from Oklahoma.

Similarly, Jindra was a great friend while I lived in the Czech Republic, and I hadn’t heard from him for years either. I was heading to Prague to celebrate my 40th birthday, and I wanted to meet up, but I wasn’t sure he got any of my emails. But, joy of joys, I managed to meet up with them both – Nick at Christmas and Jindra in Prague. And on both occasions, it was as if we had never been apart.

Now I’m not saying that I don’t have any friends now, and it’s difficult to maintain friendships over long distances or even in different countries, but the fact that I had lost contact with these to fine gentlemen made me a little bit sad. And as I reflect on other relationships closer to home that aren’t now what they used to be, I get the same feeling. I realise that times come and times go and sometimes we’re not in a position to keep up friendships because life gets in the way, but I don’t think that we should surrender valued relationships just because we’re too busy.

What should I do about it? Well, I need to pick up the phone and ring old friends. I need to set up times to meet and catch up. I need to get off my bum and make the effort. So, if you haven’t heard from me for ages, get ready for a call…

Happy (belated) birthday, Your Majesty

Happy (belated) birthday, Your Majesty

As I’m writing about recent work I have done, this project seems timely… A few months ago, Scripture Union’s team in the south east of England approached me about writing for the Queen! They were working with Hope, LICC and Bible Society to create a schools’ version of a resource to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. I was sent the text of the book that Hope, LICC and Bible Society had written and asked to select material and write extra bits and pieces to put together a 12-page booklet for people to use in primary schools.

The book focused on the text of the Queen’s Christmas messages over the years. We don’t know much about the Queen’s opinions on politics, as she tries to remain neutral, but her Christmas messages are one of the few things that she writes herself and they clearly show one part of her life: her faith. It was this that the partner organisations were seeking to help people uncover as the Queen reached this milestone birthday.

It was quite a task to slim down all the excellent material that the authors of the main book had written, but arranging some of the most interesting facts, stories and photographs into three or four different categories helped everything fall into place. I added in some questions to help children think about these different categories for themselves, as well as selecting extracts from the messages themselves. Throw in some great infographics from the designer and the book looks quite good. In fact, it seems to have gone down so well that a reprint is on the way!

If you want to get your hands on the book (celebrations go on into June), then go to Scripture Union’s website. And if you’ve got a similar job that needs doing, get in touch!

What can Creative Daydream do for you?

What can Creative Daydream do for you?

OK, it’s been a while. I haven’t blogged for a few months, so I’m back! I thought it was high time that I wrote about some projects I have recently worked on, so that you had some idea of what I could do for you!

The last six months have been busy, with a wide range of projects making their way onto my desk…

Project managing an exhibition stand: over the past two years, I have put together the concept and graphics for Scripture Union‘s exhibition stand at the Hand in Hand Conference, and then used those to create stands for other exhibitions too. 2016 was no different and, in early February, I made my way to Eastbourne with a mix of new and repurposed graphics stands, leaflets and giveaways. Over the weekend, I also worked on the stand and it was great to talk to children’s workers from across the country. One of the resources the stand was promoting was…

Guardians of Ancora: my writing of this ground-breaking Bible reading game app for children has continued. I’ve been part of the team for about three years now and it’s great to see the game in action. Recent work has included writing scripts for the Easter parts of the game as well as putting together lots of back story to appear on the revamped Guardians of Ancora supporting website.

Editorial project management: it’s been good to work with a former colleague, Nina Marcel, on resources produced by Christian Education. I was brought in to help out with ongoing projects, RE Ideas and Essential RE, while Nina focused on an enormous, brand new series of RE resources for schools.

Rewriting a training course: over the past two years, I have delivered a training course in children’s ministry for the Diocese of London. This year, it was decided that the course needed a revamp, to include new elements and reshuffle the existing new ministry. So, I rewrote the material, created new PowerPoint presentations and handouts, and then delivered the new course to the good children’s workers of Neasden. That course proved invaluable in refining the new parts of the material. Onward to courses in Twickenham, Shadwell, Chelsea and Tottenham!

Writing a magazine column: in 2016, the magazine of the Mother’s Union, called Families First, features a column written by me! Being a single man with no children, this seems an unlikely choice, but it’s going well so far. Most of the columns seem to include focusing on my own ineptitude, but hopefully despite this, they will help to bridge the gaps that can often open up between single people and parents.

Premier Childrenswork: I’ve extended my time on Premier Childrenswork to include some commissioning and subbing work, on top of the writing responsibilities I’ve had for the past three years. It’s been enjoyable to get more involved in the work of this magazine.

If anything here makes you think I might be the right person for a job you need doing, then get in touch!

Everyone’s a winner baby

Everyone’s a winner baby

I’m a winner! I know, me! Well, not just me. The game that I write, Guardians of Ancora, produced by Scripture Union, won two gongs at the recent Premier Digital Awards. I wasn’t there, so I missed out on the leek and potato soup and the glamorous ceremony. In my head, the opening was like the start of the Tony Awards, but I’m not sure the stage was big enough for that.

Anyway, it’s not often you get recognition for the work that you do, and it’s certainly not every day that someone gives a project you’re involved in an award, so you’ll excuse me if I bang on about it. Sometimes, you work and you work and you work and it still feels like you haven’t achieved anything. The pressure and pace of workflow often means that you move on to the next thing before the previous task is even complete.

This constant momentum can be strangely dissatisfying. It can feel like you haven’t achieved anything. Nothing is celebrated and you don’t give yourself any time to reflect. You might think that this is a by-product of being a freelancer – there’s no one with whom you can mark achievements and rewarding yourself with something seems a bit daft (and it’s quite hard to hi-five yourself). But while I was working for Scripture Union, I had the same nagging feeling that my efforts hadn’t resulted in much.

This career treadmill causes us to forget much of what we’ve achieved. We push on with the nagging fear that we’re not getting any younger. I’m pushing 40 and there’s a sight panic that I haven’t done enough. Quick! Swim with dolphins! See the Grand Canyon! Write a novel! Lunge wildly at the Pope! We see the achievements of other people, younger people, and we compare ourselves with them.

But, it’s all a lie. It’s simply not true. And it’s not true because:

• You’re not someone else. You’re you.
• You’re not your job.
• You’ve changed the world just by living in it.

Simply by saying hello to your neighbour, by opening a door for someone, by being generous when you could have been angry, you’ve achieved something amazing. So, look at your work life, your family life, your friends, what you do in your spare time, and celebrate all your victories. And cut yourself some slack too – not everything you do needs to be a landmark event. You might not get an award, but you can give yourself a pat on the back. And maybe a cake. Actually, definitely a cake.

 

Picture by James Burden.

Three is the magic number

Three is the magic number

On 5 November 2012, I officially started my own business. I became self-employed, freelance, whatever you call it. And it was perhaps the most un-thought-through thing I have done. Looking back, I can see that I really didn’t know what was going to happen. Armed only with my redundancy money, a handful of contacts and a sense of overwhelming optimism, I set out quite unaware of the personal magnitude of what I was doing.

Work came slowly at first. I would go on walks round Wolverton, where I live, thinking, praying, wondering where I might go to get more contacts, more contracts, more jobs. It was easier than sitting, staring at the keyboard. Some people told me that when they started, they never struggled for work (so what was I doing wrong?), while others said that it took them four years to get going (could I wait that long?). However, slowly but surely, one client led to another, and another, and another. Regular work built up and I started to risk agreeing to more ambitious projects. I passed my first anniversary, then my second and now I have reached my third in rude health.

Now my business is well and truly a toddler. And I would like to thank the people who supported me at the start – my family and friends, my old work colleagues and my first clients. You all helped to lay the foundations for what has turned into quite a successful venture! Thanks for being actively supportive and for just being there. Thanks for those initial jobs and for passing my name onto other potential clients. Thanks for being patient and understanding.

I am officially listed as a ‘sole trader’, but I am anything but. I couldn’t do what I do without that network of supporters, clients and cheerleaders. If I could bake you all a cake, I would, but that would take a while. So I’ll just content myself with saying THANK YOU. And who knows? I might just surprise you with a Victoria sponge sometime soon.

One (challenging) singular sensation

One (challenging) singular sensation

Last week, I got to indulge one of my worst character traits – I’m a terrible show-off – by performing in the musical, A Chorus Line. Set in a theatre in 1975, it follows a group of dancers auditioning to be in the chorus of a Broadway show. I love performing and being on stage – as I’ve said already, I’m a terrible show-off – but I found this show quite difficult.

Even though there were large parts of the show where I did very little, I was on stage almost all the time (most of the cast were). It sounds a bit daft, but not doing very much while still staying in character is actually quite tricky! The temptation is either to switch off and start thinking about something completely unrelated (like tomorrow’s dinner) or to become a spectator and watch the action as if you were an audience member (albeit one with a very good view).

It was also difficult because the dancing was quite complex and because I had a long monologue to deliver. The worry that I would forget dance moves or parts of the speech kept me awake at night for weeks before the show. And on stage, concentrating on routines and lines was quite hard work.

And yet, I think these issues made it a more enjoyable experience. I appreciated the challenge of the dancing and of the character I played: needing to find the emotional journey to take the character on (if that’s not too much of an X Factor cliche) meant that I had to spend time working at it.

If I’m honest, I think I enjoyed it more than last year’s Acorn Antiques, even though I’m a massive Victoria Wood fan. For me, Acorn Antiques was comfortable and fairly easy to do. I loved the comedy, the silliness and the songs, particularly the epic and daft ‘Macaroons’. But in terms of a sense of satisfaction and achievement, A Chorus Line was streets ahead.

Now, I’m essentially a very lazy person, and when I’m faced with a challenge, my first though is that I’d rather not take it on. I’d rather have an easy life. Better to sit on the sofa than to put the hard work in. Nevertheless (and if you’re a client of mine, this might be a relief to hear), it won’t be long before I’m squaring up to what needs to be done and the rewards for that hard work will vastly outweigh those of just watching TV. And A Chorus Line is proof of that – something that needed to be worked at but brought great reward.

I’m not sure where my next challenge will come from. Writing the Guardians of Ancora brings new challenges every time I have to create a new quest. I’ve just written a column for the Mothers’ Union which was a struggle to produce, but that they were very happy with (which is encouraging, but I’ve got to write five more and I’m not entirely sure I can!). However, wherever it comes from, I need to remember the satisfaction and sense of achievement I’ll get when it’s finally done and in print/on stage/on film. So, who’s going to challenge me?!

Highgate, Halloween and High-frequency High Jinx

Highgate, Halloween and High-frequency High Jinx

I’ve just realised how long it has been since I updated my blog, how very lazy of me. I have been quite busy, mind you, so that’s some sort of excuse. I thought I’d fill you in on the kind of things I’ve been getting up to. Who knows, maybe it might spark an idea that I could make happen for you!

In Highgate, I delivered my first full Academy Basics course for the Diocese of London. This was with a  bunch of willing and enthusiastic children’s workers from St Michael’s Church and surrounding parishes. I had a great time, exploring different aspects of working with children, and giving people a chance to try some new stuff out. One group came up with a Prodigal Son rap that deserves a wider audience – if only we’d filmed it! The Academy Basics course is for those who are at the start of their children’s ministry journey, and covers things like learning styles, storytelling and managing difficult behaviour. Later in the year, I’ve got more courses in Poplar, Kensal Rise and Fulham.

I’ve also put together part of a Halloween/Light Party resource pack for Scripture Union, commissioning writers and writing copy to help churches make intelligent use of Halloween. That comes out very soon, check it out here.

A new client, FEBA, brought the chance to work on some children’s resources and to create a radio character called Roger. It was good to work for them and to renew a working relationship with Simeon Whiting, another Christian charity worker turned freelancer. Look out for the FEBA pack soon on their website.

There’s been lots of other things happening – proofing fundraising and supporter communications for Shooting Star Chase, editing a book called @BibleIntro for Authentic Media, writing and commissioning blog posts for the Diocese of London as well as writing their children’s ministry newsletter, my ongoing work with Premier Childrenswork, compiling a youth book for BRF… the list is pleasingly varied 🙂

If you have anything that you think I might be able to help with, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Gelatin-based confectionery and other lessons

Gelatin-based confectionery and other lessons

Well, Creative Daydream has been going for 18 months and I’ve learnt quite a lot. Particularly:

1 I have little self-control if there’s an open bag of marshmallows in the house.

2 If you’re going to be part of a meeting via Skype, you’ll spend an hour staring at the top of people’s heads.

3 It’s not going to go well if you put a TV programme on ‘in the background’.

4 Going to the supermarket at 10 on Monday morning means that you avoid the crowds, but also that the aisles will be populated with pensioners who stop suddenly for no apparent reason.

5 Searching iTunes for old Eurovision songs is not an acceptable way to spend the working day. (But you do rediscover beauties like this – I love a song with whistling…)

On the other hand, I’ve had a great time writing, editing, training and generally being creative for companies and organisations such as the Diocese of London, Dubit, Leprosy Mission, Dodo and Co, Shooting Star Chase and Childrenswork magazine. And I’m really looking forward to what the next 18 months might bring!

If you’ve got a project that requires a great way with words, a hundred ideas or a warm presenting style, then get in touch. What can Creative Daydream do for you?

 

Thinking big!

Thinking big!

Recently I completed a project for Scripture Union to create their stand at the Hand in Hand conference in Eastbourne. SU had secured a large, but strangely laid out space in the conference venue, called the Floral Bistro. They wanted this to be a flexible stand and seminar venue, both promoting SU’s various ministries and hosting seminars throughout the conference.

Working with Jim at Dodo and Co, based in Newport Pagnell, we had to design for a space which we hadn’t seen and for which we had no accurate measurements! What was clear though was that the space was large and pull-up banners just wouldn’t be up to the task. In addition, how were we going to pull together the four or five different strands of activity SU wanted to promote without losing a strong brand identity?

SU wanted to use a vine-leaf design used on some previous marketing materials and this proved to be the unifying factor of the design and layout. We assigned each of the ministry strands a product and gave each product a ‘logo’ (something from the product design). These then featured on the leaves of five free-standing vines, guiding people to different parts of the space. We came across some vinyl banners produced by Nimlok, which measured 2.5m x 2.5m, and decided to go BIG.

Six of these banners, together with the free-standing vines, created the visual impact the space demanded. Coloured table cloths and stickers pulled the space together creating a welcoming and friendly environment. Some even declared it the best stand they had worked on!

We had to overcome some issues (the graphics were so large that we had to hire a bigger vehicle to transport them and we had an unexpected limit placed on us for seminar attendance), but these were solved by a resourceful team working on the stand.

In the end, this was a hugely enjoyable, if unexpected, project to work on. I’d love to do more – want an exhibition stand space creating?!

SU stand entranceThe vertical vineGiveaway packs