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One more week

Somehow I’m coming to the end of my adventure. Just one week left. My brain is moving fast leading me to talk to recruiters about getting a job. I need to remember the things that I want next.

I have just arrived in Seattle. It’s a short ferry trip over from Vancouver Island where I’ve been staying in Victoria for nearly a week.

Victoria is full of creative people. There’s a great combination of inspiration from humans and nature. The parks, coastline and mountains combine with Sunday’s fantastic show put on by Drag Kings and Queens to leave a delightful creative cocktail in my mind. I have been writing a lot and honing my tracks. Always honing.

I am excited to put them out and it feels a bit different this time. I might need to borrow willing ears to listen to the tracks so far. Give me a shout if you’re honest, kind and prepared to listen to unfinished tracks. Once again, there are feminist themes and the exploration of being whole but in a relationship.

I hope the creativity continues in Seattle. Sydney aside, it is the only place I have been before on my trip so far. I am staying at the same hostel. It feels good.

This post has been fairly wittering … to sum up: I’m excited to be writing, I loved Victoria and it’s great to be back in Seattle.

Thanks, again, for reading.

Em x

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The train and the Rockies

I’ve been MIA again. But wow. Canada.

My mum came to meet me in Toronto and we got the train for three days to the Rockies. We have had some amazing moments here and will head onwards to Vancouver the day after tomorrow.

I don’t usually do travel #thisishowwedoit style blogs but this has been a pretty good experience and I’d like to remember exactly how we did it for … next time. We have booked everything ourselves which, I would say, keeps the price down.

Between seasons

First thing, after we had booked most of our trip, we realised that nothing really opens until mid-May. There are two major seasons: winter and summer. Coming between the two means that there are fewer options from a skiing, touring and accommodation perspective. The lake boating trips are definitely not on.

That said, we’ve been incredibly lucky to enjoy whole days of sunshine and catch the landscape in all its excellence, knowing that it will never look exactly this way again.

On the train

We got on the VIA Rail train at 1am one Sunday morning. It was due to leave at 10:30 the previous evening but didn’t due to severe freezing rain in Toronto. Apparently the train frequently runs late and so, if travelling, be sure not to book any connecting flights or rail journeys without some time in between.We were then on the train for 3 days to Jasper. We had a sleeper cabin with 2 bunk beds, a sink (with fun mirrors – see below) and a private toilet. The shower was shared but beautifully clean.We sat with strangers at tables of 4 for 3 meals each day. The food was exquisite and we learned new stories from people all over the world. We got off at stops to stretch our legs. Had a bit of a wander (and a sit down on the bench) when we got to Winnipeg. It was truly beautiful.Best of all, we were able to view the beautiful nature outside from the dome carts which had elevated seating. The rooves were glass “bubbles” revealing panoramic views. The view for the majority of the 3 days was a mixtures of flat and less flat snow-covered land and lakes, decorated with streams.The relatively repetitive patterns of snow and Douglas Firs lulled us into a sense of security so when the Rockies shot out of Jasper, they were truly striking.

The Rockies

We got off the train in Jasper for our week in the Rockies. At this time of year, there are two trains each week across the country. We decided that one week would give us enough time to travel around the Rockies without being rushed. We don’t ski.

We stayed for two nights in each of Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise and will return to Jasper for a final night before getting back on the trian. There is a load of accommodation in all these places ranging from hostels to Chateaux hotels.

We haven’t hired a car so got on the Sundog shuttle. Every day this goes from Jasper to Lake Louise to Banff and back again. This is a shuttle service only so there is no chat about the breathtaking geology of the Columbia Icefields and no time to stop at the sites for photographs. One toilet break only. But it’s a good service and cheaper than a taxi!

Some of the things we have done:

  • took the Jasper Skytram (the highest and longest aerial tramway in Canada) for incredible views and an epic hot chocolate
  • watched a lot of ice hockey … oooph this Stanley Cup
  • had the most delicious and hearty salad I’ve ever eaten at the Raven Bistro, Jasper (other choices are available)
  • walked along the walkways along the Bow river in Banff
  • visited the hot spring caves at Cave and Basin National Historic Site in Banff (photo above)
  • had a great guided bus tour to see some of the top spots with Discover Banff Tours (photo of Lake Minnewanka below)

I write from the Fairmont Hotel at Lake Louise where I’ve just finished a delicious creme brûlée. We had lunch and overlooked the frozen lake. What dreams are made of.

There’s a restaurant and deli here and it’s an absolute delight.

I am equally excited about being here and getting back on the train. If you have any questions about this stuff I’d love to answer them so I can talk more about this trip!

Thanks for reading!

Em x

Community and Artist Development

As I travel I am shuffling and challenging my thoughts. I am considering more what I want to do when I return to the UK… and more specifically, Manchester.

Many of my ideas have directed me towards the importance of community and artist development, in each case, around music.

At SXSW there was a lot of talk around the lack of artist development from labels combined with a lack of time for artists and bands to be able to explore their sound and style before being written-off (literally in the accounts).

At the same time, as a *bedroom musician*, though I have time to work on my own sound, there is a lack of feedback until I get to a point where I’m ready to record or perform my music. At that point the stakes are higher because being in a studio costs money and being on stage in front of people is a big deal if you’re like me.

So… I believe that community is key.

I want to create a space where women making music and sounds have the chance to meet up, work on music, give and receive feedback on tracks and eventually play together and support each other.

This is currently named The Daphnies, inspired by Daphne Oram.

If you are making music in Manchester or beyond and would like to get in touch or be involved somehow I’d love it if you’d send me an email at embriarmusic@gmail.com.

I’ve made an Instagram account so please have a look for any updates.

Cheers

Em x

Artists’ Way

If we’ve ever spoken for more than 7 minutes, I’m likely to have brought up the Artists’ Way by Julia Cameron.

I thought it was worth trying to explain what and why it is. If nothing else, this should make me more able to articulate its importance in the future.

So what is it all about:

  • It’s 12 weeks
  • It’s about artistic discovery and recovery
  • There’s a themed essay every week focusing on an element of recovery (e.g. recovering a sense of safety, identity, power etc)
  • There are excercise around each weekly theme
  • You write three pages of nonsense or not nonsense every morning (known as the morning pages)
  • You take yourself out for an Artist’s Date, alone, once each week

What you get out of it:

It somehow develops a sense of clarity of who you are and what you want. It gives an abundance of ideas of things to make and it helps you get out of your own way to make these things happen.

Don’t just take my word for it. In a Facebook post in 2012, bestselling author, Elizabeth Gilbert says:

“Three times in the last decade I’ve committed to doing The Artist’s Way’s program, and each time I’ve learned something important and surprising about myself and my work.”

She is humble enough to admit:

“Without The Artist’s Way, there would have been no Eat, Pray, Love.”

I have previously been through the Artist’s Way process as part of a group and found it extremely inspirational to share the journeys of others. It also provided accountability so that I did the excercises.

If you’d be interested in going through the process in the summer, I’m likely to start a group in Manchester. Please drop me an email (embriarmusic@gmail.com) if you’d like to join me.

Thanks

Em x

Monica’s mother and me

How goal setting turned me into Monica’s mother.  

We live in a world of #youcandoanything. Like many people, I bombard myself with empowering Instagram quotes. I have become quite the inspiration addict.  

Inspiration should be handled with care. 

My best sources of #youcandoit quotes combine two themes:

  • #followyourdreams (i.e. focussed goal setting); and
  • #selflove (i.e. be kind to yourself in the process).

The result: set goals and hope to achieve things whilst being kind and encouraging yourself as you make moves to begin, work and achieve.

In my experience, the first without the second causes fatigue, adrenaline overload and an unhealthy tunnel vision.

I hadn’t considered how my #selflove was manifesting itself and had a horrible realisation.  There is a disastrous internal miscommunication going on.

So… to the Friends analogy.

Everyone’s seen the Friends episodes when Monica’s mother directs a constant stream of criticism Monica’s way.  Let’s presume that this is well intended and that she loves Monica and wants the best for her.

Monica and the rest of us perceive the criticism as destructive and mean. The reaction: resistance, anger and a shutting down. 

Just like Monica’s mother, my goal-setting-self has the best of intentions.  When I set goals I want the best for myself and it comes from a place of self development.  

However, when I communicate the goals to myself my gut hears (or feels) me:

(A) guilting myself into doing things; and 

(B) feeling shame when I don’t manage to do those things.  

I have realised that, despite my good intentions, my inner voice has become as destructive and mean as Monica’s mother.  

I use this voice in relation to creative productivity, eating, exercise, posture… all of it.  Demanding impossible standards and criticising failure.

Now that I’ve noticed, I’m trying to be kinder and it seems to be going well.

Recommendations

I’ve tried a few things to teach my goal-setting voice to be kinder.  Here’s what I’ve found helpful:

  • Big wishes:  The classic  coach question is:  what would you do if money, your ego (etc…) wasn’t an issue?   Instead ask:  what would you wish for yourself in your life in relation to your work, home, creativity, family, [insert other important categories].  Write constantly for 2 minutes, 5 minutes or 20 minutes and see how it feels.
  • 3 daily wishes:  each day, instead of writing a to-do list, make three wishes for yourself that day.  Be as specific as possible.  Again, see how it feels.
  • Listening out for Monica’s Mom:  Always listen out for Monica’s Mother voice and, where possible, try to rephrase the criticism and be kind.
  • Done list:  Taking time at the end of each day to do a “done” list rather than a to do list can be satisfying.

I’d be really interested to hear ways that others deal with this inner voice.

Thanks for reading.

Em x

Chicago and all that jazz

I love it here. I feel content. It’s hard to write when you’re content.

There is a warm familiarity here through these cold streets. It has the red bricks, the sounds of passing trains and a good level of cement that I’m used to.

Chicago has oodles or personality without being tied to a genre.  I have seen Jazz, Blues and Pop here. And I was lucky enough to be front and centre for a Second City Theatre show. It pays to travel alone.

In a headache filled moment I even got the chance to watch the film Chicago on my laptop.

The familiarity makes me think of home.  I am happy that I have around six weeks left of this trip but being here makes me excited about the new ways I will be spending my time and the possibilities that lie ahead.

I have been further editing my book about Ammerella Twigg, and making music with the safety of my headphones.

I have three more days to delightfully spend with Chicago.

Thanks for reading.

Em x

Escape the City

If I’m honest I joined Escape the City’s Idea Accelerator programme last summer because I was terrified of quitting my job as a City lawyer.  I hoped that being around others who had made, or were preparing to make, a similar “reckless decision” might normalise the whole thing for me.

This basic objective was fulfilled and, as I write from my travels in the US, I reflect upon my Escape experience.

The Escape team are currently recruiting for the next London cohorts. Check out their website at https://www.escapethecity.org. If you get involved, do drop my name and if you have any questions you’d like to ask me, please get in touch.

I have always written music but have been afraid of releasing into the world.  Before starting the Escape programme I had also written a children’s book.

The Idea Accelerator programme was a 12 weeks spent with 29 other humans who all had their ideas to accelerate.  The majority were start-up business ideas but the principles really worked for my creative projects.

Here’s how the Escape experience helped:

(1) Community

I gained a community of risk takers who not only normalised the idea of leaving my responsible job but celebrated it, supported my idea and were a weekly source of inspiration.

(2) Break it down 

When I turned up to the course I had my music, my book and this blog in mind.  I was trying to funnel them all in the same direction as one idea. In going through the exercises and processes on the course I quickly realised that these were three separate ideas so squishing them into the same funnel wouldn’t work. I then decided to focus on my book: The Unexpected Adventure of Ammerella Twigg.

(3) Reveal the yellow brick road

Once all the pieces were broken down, the amazing Escape team: Dom, Ben, Skye and Mia, were there with A3 pieces of paper, post-it notes and Sharpies to provide a pathway to pursue, explore and test the idea.  This was hugely helpful for getting through the blocks that fear can put in the way of progress.

(4) Break it down, again

Next was to break the book idea down into its most basic form. How could I get it into the world without spending all my money?

(a) I printed 100 very basic versions of the book and gave them out to people, encouraging them to pass them on. These were my Beta readers. The more the books were passed on, I hoped that the more objective the feedback would become.

(b) I delved into bookstagram and contacted Instagram users who loved books. I sent three sample chapters to individuals who were interested in reading them.

This all gave me hugely helpful feedback so that I could get to the re-write.

(5) Acknowledge the fear

Putting yourself out there with your idea whether it is a piece of music, writing or a business is hugely scary.  We usually hear stories after the success has happened so all those “rock bottom moments” seem romantic. They ain’t.  The course and the community meant that there was support, inspiration and mentoring to keep those heads above water.

(6) Ask for help 

Beyonce, Kelly and Michelle taught me to be an independent woman. They neglected to teach the next lesson: asking for help is not shameful. Sometimes other people have skills that can be hugely useful to us and that they are willing to share.  In asking the beta readers for help, I learned that not only do people like to help, sometimes they are grateful for the opportunity. This absolutely blew my mind.

Where I’m at and how you can help:

I’m making music, traveling and writing as I have hoped to do for years but not been brave enough.

  • Listen/follow: My first single, Parity, is available on Spotify… and please follow me by clicking on the button below, because 11 followers is never enough 🙂

https://open.spotify.com/follow/1/?uri=spotify:artist:0iolxnLHUhuYBeytiq95zm?si=E-zR8Sg4S0iAONwH1JPGsA&size=detail&theme=lightBe a beta reader: I’m looking for readers of version 2.0 of my book.  Get in touch if you’d be interested in reading (embriarmusic@gmail.com).  You can read more about it here.

  • Host a gig: I’m coming back to the UK in the summer and am keen to share the music I’ve been making on my travels.  If you’d be interested in hosting a gig please get in touch (embriarmusic@gmail.com).

What a few of the founders are up to 6 months on:

  • Lizzy founded 18.TEN Housewares during the course and has been working on her beautiful designs which rethink common homeware products such as egg cups and toast racks.  These products are due to be launched at Spotted Top Drawer in September 2018.
  • Natasha went from banking to baking and founded Bakit, which provides kits of ready-measured ingredients for delicious cakes, delivered directly to you.  She’s kindly offering a 30% discount off your first order using this code: FIRSTBAKIT.
  • Sarah founded urban plant boutique: Succulence London, providing good-looking greenery to your homes, offices and Instagram feeds.  She now has a shop in Walthamstow and she’d love to see you (Incubator 4, 6-10 Central Parade, 137 How Street, E17 4RT).
  • Tash, our decluttering queen, founded Light Style Spacewhere she helps the hoarders among us to simplify their homes in a kind and non-judgmental manner.  Tash will also help you sell valuable items and will give you any profits made as long as you spend the cash on experiences not things.
  • Tash and Lisa met on the course and teamed up to co-found And The Future which starts with a bootcamp to make you more conscious about living a more sustainable life.
  • Has founded The Drapery, where women can have existing outfits altered to truly fit them, or have their own clothing designs made from scratch. Confident, comfortable clothes. Designed by you and made by The Drapery with a 10% discount if you refer a friend.
  • Martha created Freemans Tea, a most excellent tasting unique blend which she is continuing to perfect.

Thank you Escape the City.