Buckets or Bucket list?

This month, next monday myself and my daughter are going to the Eurovision in Lisbon. 

This has taken many many years waiting for a country to win whose name we can pronounce and who has an airport we can fly to direct from Dublin. 

We have had plenty of “feedback” from people who can’t understand why on earth we would want to go. 

Do we care?????

Do we feck!

This week I will buy flip flops, a new bag for the plane (no check in suitcase nonsense) and a pair of green feather boas.

I could do with a new washing machine.

But a washing machine is not on my BUCKET LIST. 

Ever since I can remember we watched the Eurovision at home.  Every year it’s got a bit wackier (Australia? really?) But every year for a few days a lot of people turn up dress up and have a blast singing pop songs and generally making a lot of people happy (maybe not the Russians!)

This year the Irish entry is from Skerries…down the road from where I live.

So that’s a big tick off the list.

Another thing on the list is to be a happy successful published writer. (not the tortured kind in a garret eating beans out of a tin)

This year I have had some pieces published/short listed and I can tell you it makes me happy. I got to take part in the amazing Label Lit event which had poets the length and breath of the country leaving poetry on labels to make people smile or think. I came home from Roscommon Poetry Day with labels from poets I never met and left labels on hedges/statues and in hotel beds. Kind of like the Eurovision of poetry!


Does anyone deep down really care if I go to Lisbon or write a poem?


And they won’t care if you travel to the Himalayas or learn to play the trombone. If you take up tap dancing at 55 or go vegan after eating meat all your life.

Really, no one cares.

You, on the other hand, will care a lot if you dont make time to do the things on your wish list/bucket list. You will spend a lot of time resenting work/family/friends who make demands on your time, money  and resources which stops you getting anything you really want done.


You could take the time (yes, it takes time) to sit yourself down and write you honest, truthful personalised bucket list. Just for you. No point if writing “I want the kids to be healthy and happy” if you really want to learn origami or try ballroom dancing.

The universe needs clear instructions from you to give it some chance of giving you what you want. Otherwise, you get what is left over when everyone else gets what they want.

And then you feel sorry for yourself, or hard done by. Your bucket list becomes a bucket with a hole in it.

So how about this week you make a few minutes to genuinely draw up a bucket list so that on the days when work is hard and kids are sick or the weather is shite you have something to look forward to, to dream about, to plan, to research, to set a goal about?

Your  clocks only go one way. You can’t go back. You get this one life.

If you set your list you may make it happen.

If you dont your time will go anyway.

Then you could end up with Johnny Logan on a permanent loop in your brain singing

“What’s another year?”……:) 🙂



Where does inspiration come from?

Crows Books & God’s Horses

Did you ever read a book, a poem or a story and wonder how the hell did someone come up with that idea?

Have you watched a film recently that you loved but wondered how  someone could take a script on paper and turn it into a visual masterpiece?

Have you ever looked at a painting and wondered what put the idea for that into someones head or what were they smoking when they painted it? 

At a recent writing workshop with the fabulous Fiona O’Rourke,  https://twitter.com/fionamkorourke we were asked to write down the first things we heard as babies. Simple enough exercise for a thursday evening.

What we heard or did not hear produced a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration so much that my head was going to burst….and that was only listening to four or five peoples sounds apart from my own!

I heard the sound of O’Donnell Abu on the radio first thing in the morning.

Wood pigeons.

The shipping forecast (including Malin Head, knots, decibels and the Irish Sea)

The low moan of Jersey cows across the road. 

Racing commentary from Aintree on a Saturday on the tele and from Newcastle on the portable radio in the shed at the same time.

The Sunday Game on the same portable radio. 

The Angelus which seemed to go on forever.

The theme tune to the Magic Roundabout and the bastard Zebedee who always said “it was time for bed”.

The Kennedys of Castleross.

The wind which I thought was a banshee whistling on the wires in Mornington.


The sounds also brought alive the other memories. The smell of burning porridge (sorry mam!) a sink full of prawns, pheasants hanging on the back door of May Mullen’s kitchen (I loved the colours of the feathers) my granny’s many cats howling like dying babies in the night. Frost, daffodils, bluebells, rabbits and leaves.

My mother would not have been particularly known for being creative, and yet like so many people of her generation she was creative on a daily basis which we took for granted as “just how she did things.”

She told me casually that black furry caterpillars were “God’s Horses”. Pine cones which had fallen were “Crows’ Books” and a flock of crows flying overhead were “Crows going home from school”. I believed her as any four or five year old would. And why not?

I doubt very much if Peggy was being profound or inspiring or literary in those moments, I expect she heard the same thing as a child. When I decide to write or paint or make something I could go to an art gallery for lofty inspiration, read a book of classic poetry or see a play.


I can go back the Bettystown in my head, to being four or five years old and see what I could see then. Listen to what I heard then. Smell lilac, honeysuckle, gorse bush for the May alter or feel chestnuts smooth and brown picked on the way home from school. See the mussel beds at the sea or the crunch of sand in the sandwiches on the beach. The salt smell of scutch grass and the smell of whitethorn blossoms and hot tar on the road in summer which was great for poking sticks in.

As I type I have a bunch of daffodils picked from my cousin’s garden on my desk. There were daffodils growing in the same garden when I was small and they smelled just as lovely then as they do now.

From one simple exercise on a thursday evening I have a hundred different smells, sounds, visions memories that I can draw on.

And I didnt have to go anywhere.

It was all there anyway.

(Peggy would think I have lost the plot 🙂 )

My guess is that most people write/paint/make from what they see around them and what they know,

what they remember

and what they feel.

So this month if you feel uninspired and a bit fed up of doing the same thing over and over but being too tired to “think up” something different, why not find a few minutes to   yourself with a pen and paper.

Remember what your favorite smell was as a child (I also remember the smell of silage!)

What season or type of weather did you love?

What did you like to look at? Water? Grass? Meadows? Houses? Sky?

And write it down, or paint it, or find something that smells the same now as it did then.

If you want to go to town or out in nature to get inspiration then by all means do.

But I am guessing there is a whole world of inspiration just inside your head, behind the worries about bills and kids, parents and work, underneath the fears for the future and just beside your hopes.

You never know what you might find.

You never know what you might make with it! 🙂 🙂


…and if you are feeling inspired to take your creative muscles out for the spring then join us in Portmarknock on 14th April for a seven week intensive course of The Artist’s Way on Saturday mornings.





Fabulous “starter” and rubbish “finisher”?

Do you absolutely love starting out on a new project?

Does your head constantly generate new ideas?

Do you love the idea of new ( or old but new to you) books, knitting needles, paintbrushes, tools, canvass or baking equipment?

This time of the year is a great time for starting new things. Habits, exercise regimes, night classes, ways of working, ways of dealing with people, books, projects, jobs and random things you have decided to stop procrastinating about.

The energy around a new idea, project or plan is invigorating and exciting, interesting and a lovely novelty… for a while. Then, if you are anything like me, the workbook, novel, plans to paint the apartment, write the play, cook new dishes from around the world (lost the run of myself with that one!) is exciting for about a week.

Then the “idea” of the new thing is often far more exciting and interesting that the actual “doing” of the thing.

The doing of the thing often involves mundane aspects like shopping, typing, stopping doing twenty things and reading, or putting more time and energy in than you realized it was going to take.


In the last week I learned a very valuable lesson from a wise woman called Nikki Weston. We were talking about finishing things and she suggested that when I finish a project I have been slaving over (loving it but slaved over it none the less), that I contact someone (in this case the lady herself)  to say “I finished!”

I thought it was a “nice” idea until I finished the project yesterday afternoon. On my own, In my house. The dog and cat were not remotely interested or impressed. There was no brass band or troop of cheerleaders with pom poms in my house  to celebrate six months of my hard work.

Then I remembered Nikki’s words and emailed to say “I finished it!”

Of course I got a lovely email back full of encouragement and only short of a hand made medal. But, childish as its sounds, it was a great way to validate finishing a “big thing”. Simple, costs nothing except a bit of time but for a serial starter of things like me, it was a lovely idea to have someone acknowledge that a project was finished.

It got me thinking….do you have  ideas, books and projects and concepts that you started, are thinking of starting or never finished?

How does it feel when you don’t finish something?

What would it be like for the serial starters among us to actually take one thing at a time and finish it? 

What energy would that free up? 

Half finished projects are the creative equivalent of “clothes I am going to slim into”.

Every time you open the wardrobe the clothes might scream “fatso!”.

Every time you think of a project you did not finish it might scream “failure!”.

There are many reasons why we don’t finish things.  Fear of failure, fear of success, losing interest (my own particular default setting) or running out of energy, resources, steam or support.

How about this week, as we are coming to the end of the month, you think about one thing you haven’t finished and see if you can put it to bed once and for all?

How about you find your finishing line cheerleader or set yourself a reward for tackling it (if you can do both even better) so that someone somewhere knows you have finished it?

The world needs starters or there would never be anything new. 

Starters need a bit of assistance getting over the finish line. That’s not the end of the world. 

But the best bit about finishing something is you can get to do your favorite thing of all….start something new!!! 🙂 


finishing a book







A new year and a new you? Really?

Do you find you make the same kind of goals every year?

Do you start off full of puff and end up a bit knackered two months in?

Do you then decide that there is a series of upcoming events and holidays and you might as well get that wedding, holiday, birthday party out of the way before you tackle your weight, the weight of your wallet or your career aspirations? 

This time of the year we are inundated with ideas for setting goals, joining gyms, taking up the ukulele and losing the Christmas pudding fat that seems to have attached itself to our arses with a steely determination.

February and October are apparently our lightest times of the year. Given that January and September are our usual “get myself in shape, solvent, happy, gainfully employed in a wonderful job” months, what follows is a surge of enthusiasm which no doubt yields very definite results.

And then the resolve weakens. Its Paddy’s day, Easter and sure look, its nearly summer then so it all falls to bits. Or its Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas …then it all falls to bits.

So how about instead of setting goals for a “New You” this year, you have a look at what the original (and perfectly acceptable) “YOU” got done this last year?

Did you survive Christmas and still stay on speaking terms with most of your family?

Did you survive a year in a job that takes a lot of what you have to give and some of what you haven’t?

Did you get kids up, dressed and fed and off to school for most of the school term and throughout the year?

Did you stand freezing your nips off at the side of a football/hurley/rugby field watching junior sport in the rain on a Saturday morning when you would much rather be in bed?

Did you spend time trying to write a poem, craft a story, write a blog post when the sink was full of dishes and there was no clean socks?

Did you spend time with a parent even when you had a million other things that need doing before you go back to work/school/college.

Were you kind?

Did you make anything? Write anything? Create anything?

Did anyone have an easier day/hour/week because of something you did or said?


Instead of making goals this year, how about making a list of D.B.A’s (Don’t Be Afraids)

If you had a list of things you were not going to be afraid of, would that be easier than a number on a scales to aspire to? For example if you had

“don’t be afraid to try running” instead of “to run 10K”

would it be easier to think about giving it a go?

“don’t be afraid to apply for a new job” instead of “to have a new job in place by June” would it be easier to think about putting applications in for something new?

“don’t be afraid to ask for a raise/fee/payment” instead of “to secure a raise by July”  would it be easier to make the first move and ask for a discussion?

Don’t be afraid to exhibit your work, submit your poem, ask for help, think about what you could do if you used your time differently…the list is endless.

We are often and naturally afraid of doing something challenging. A little bit of fear keeps us safe and on our toes.

But if we embrace it by acknowledging that it exists, we can choose not to be afraid of it. Would that make it easier to achieve something new without the pressure of having an end result which has a 50% chance of success, and an equal 50% chance of failure?

Why not try your own list of Don’t Be Afraids and see what you are open to the New Year bringing your way, you may be surprised at what you find! 🙂 

The opposite to fear is courage, and if you choose not to be afraid…who knows what you might have a go at! 🙂




Finding Your Tribe & keeping your dreams precious.

“What do you want to do that for?”

“Why do you want to go there?”

“Why can you not just be grateful for what you have?”

Have you ever shared something with someone you thought would be supportive only to get one of the above or similar reactions?

Do people tell you all the reasons why you cant/wont/should not aspire to doing something different with your “best interests” at heart, but it ends up taking the winds out of your sails?

The old saying “safety in numbers” works perfectly well if you are trekking in a forest in the dark. Or walking down a street at night.

But if you want to do something different to your friends/family/colleagues, the best meaning advice can be utterly defeating. It’s not that people don’t want you to do well, be happy, aspire to something great. It can often be that they are afraid for you that it wont work out. But more often than not, your dream, goal, aspiration or big idea can highlight the fact that someone else is stuck.

What is important to you is not the same as what is important to anyone else. Expecting anyone else to understand that can be a very disappointing exercise. If you are feeling vulnerable and lets face it, whenever you try to make big changes, the first thing you feel is excited followed immediately by a whole dose of “vulnerable”…so it wont take much to send us back to the bottom of the mountain where the most people are and we can feel safe. Trapped, hard done by, disappointed but safe.

But what about if you changed who you spoke to about your really special goals? What about if you only shared what is important to you with people who will support you to go for it?

If someone is in the same job as you for the last twenty years they may not be the best person to confide in if you want to move on. 

If someone is in a difficult relationship and you want to leave yours, they may also not be best equipped to encourage you to move away to a healthier way to live. 

Your dream may, however unintentionally, highlight their loss or sadness. 

So, you have to be precious!

If you have something you want to do, be or have, then sharing that is one way of letting people know you would appreciate their support. But only if they are in a place in their own lives where they have demonstrated their own journey to a better place having climbed their own personal mountain. 

The you will find a whole lot of encouragement and suggestions, ideas and sharing of information.


Because they are looking at you from the top of their own mountain, not from the bottom of a hill they can never climb. They can see things, pitfalls, shortcuts and most of all the view. And when you get to the top of whatever mountain you want to climb, there is a whole group of people just like you. In short, your tribe. 

You don’t have to stop connecting with your friends and family when you want to do something that is deeply personal or important to you, but you do have to be careful about who and what you share. Your dreams are precious, gossip is cheap entertainment. Try not to let your dreams be todays gossip at the water cooler.

Speak about them to people who understand what it is like to want something different.

There you will find your support. There you will find your tribe. There you will find a sense of belonging.

This week, how about asking someone what their own dreams are and make a point of offering encouragement.  If you can offer information or suggestions that’s good too. You never know, your positive take on their dream may just be the difference between them taking the first step.

It costs nothing to be positive.

You don’t have to understand why people want what. 

But someone, somewhere will appreciate your willingness to understand that this is deeply personal and special to them. And when we are not criticizing why anyone would want to do anything that we don’t feel is of value, we can get on with making our own dream happen….and how cool would that be?



When is having a break is worse than having no break?

Are you dreading going back to work after the bank holiday?

Are you dreading Christmas? The New year? The next five years?

If you have a stone in your shoe and you  take your shoes off for the weekend, would you put the stone back into your shoe on Monday morning?

No? …..and yet…we often do.

Put the stone back by going back into the situation that is causing us stress, pain, grief or hassle.

Not deliberately. Not because we are not intelligent human beings. Not because we love pain.

There are many reasons why we continue to stay where we are uncomfortable or unappreciated and they are usually very very real. Paying the mortgage and putting food on the table is very real. So too is school uniforms, petrol to get to work, bus/ train tickets, electricity, gas, birthdays, and funerals, expected or not.

But there is also  a deeper well of reasons why we find it hard to move. Being stressed is EXHAUSTING! Being too tired to make a change is a very real reason why we often cant. Sometimes putting one foot in front of the other and finding a pair of matching socks is as much as we can get done in a day without falling to pieces.

Being afraid is even more tiring and a very valid reason for sticking with the stone in your shoe that is familiar. At least you know the level of discomfort you are dealing with. Stepping out without the familiar stone might mean ending up with a much bigger one and make walking forward impossible…or not…but the challenge is you wont know until you try.

You can a crystal ball on Amazon for £20. Whether you believe that people can see the future in them or not, its hard to take it serious when you see the “Made in China” label on the bottom. 🙂 It would be great if we could buy a crystal ball and look into it and see what will happen if we do this or try that or don’t do anything.

The reality is we really wont know until we try.

But what we do know is what will happen if we don’t.

This can be a very powerful piece of information to be used in our favor when we are thinking of making a change. 

We know how things are now, how things feel now, what we have to do on a daily basis to keep going. That’s half the battle!

It takes a lot of courage to make a change, but a lot less energy than you think! 

What if you replaced the energy it takes to be tired, stressed, upset, manipulated, unappreciated with energy to  take a bit of time to look at your bigger picture and what is important to you just for a few minutes in your day, BEFORE you put the stone back in your shoe?

What if you took a cup of tea/glass of wine/cigarette and a piece of paper and wrote down the five things that are important to you today. Just five. Then think about how you can bring some of those five things closer to your current life.

What if you gave yourself permission to think about how YOU could do something just for yourself, over the weekend, before you go back to work/school/stress or exhaustion?

Just for you.

No one else.

Time to think about what is important to you.

The answers will reveal themselves.

Once you figure out the “what”, the how is mechanical.

If we are honest, most of us really know the “what”, but we lack the energy, support, courage or know how to make it happen.

But just this weekend, take the time to decide “what” you want.

Not why you cant have it, why it wont be available to you, just “what” it really is. 

And imagine how you would feel if you could have it.

Then do one tiny thing that will bring your “what” closer to you. Just one.

See what happens. 🙂 🙂 🙂

And if you want to take a WHOLE DAY to think about what is important to you and how to get it without selling your soul, life, kids, or nearest and dearest, come along to the Build Your Own Life Raft workshop next Saturday in the Marine Hotel Sutton, Dublin 🙂 🙂  You’ll be glad you did! :):) 🙂

Cost 65 euro, places limited, tea/coffee/snacks definitely NOT limited 🙂 🙂 🙂

contact Anne on 0892329373 or creativelythinking9@gmail.com for booking or more information 🙂







When does a good idea become a chain around your ankles?

Have you ever taken a job you thought would be the answer to all your problems  which turned out to be a living nightmare?

Have you fallen for someone that made you feel like a million dollars only to find they are a completely different version of themselves when you marry/move in with or make a commitment to them? 

Do you have a friend or a colleague, a family member or a relative that used to be great fun and now tends to drive you demented by using more of your time, space  or resources than you are willing or able to give?

I firmly believe that as a nation, we tend to be more polite than honest. Which is fine. Except when it’s not.

When a situation that started out as positive turns out to be negative, whether by the passage of time, the change in the economy, a change in our selves or our circumstances, we can often find ourselves well and truly trapped.  It can feel like we are drowning in a sea of worry, fear, insecurity, helplessness or debt. A way out can often be very hard to contemplate, not to mention figure out and put in place.

It can seem like a lot of courage is needed to put your hand up and say “this is not what I thought it was going to be”.

It can also seem like a lot of people will be disappointed by your actions if you make a change.

It can feel like the price you would pay for getting out of a situation is way too expensive in terms of money, security or respect from your family or peers.

Two truths  I know to be self evident; 

1 No one really cares if you make a change.

2 No one really cares if you don’t.

But if you can manage to find a way out of a situation that is making you miserable, unwell, unhappy, insecure, I also know that someone, somewhere will look at you and take courage to look at how they can make their own lives better.

Inspiring others is not your primary reason for doing things in a way that is healthier for you, but inspiring yourself, your children, your friends, your family by being honest and authentic is more powerful than you can imagine.

No one will say “Thanks for staying in that crappy situation. Thanks for  staying with that person who made you miserable. Thanks for taking on that job that made you ill,”  least of all yourself. 

But what if you did sit down and find out what you COULD do?

What if you set out a practical, logical series of steps to take you forward in a way that is safe and with the minimal risk possible?

What if you just explored the possibilities of life without that toxic situation without guilt, worry or feeling like you were betraying your  friends/family/workplace?

When I worked in an emergency hostel for victims of domestic violence, I found it hard to understand at first that women went back into situations that were harmful to them and their children. The ethos of the hostel was “support not judgment”.  Not judging someone in that situation is easier said than done.

Over time I began to see that some women did, in fact, not go back. 

But it didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen without a lot of thought, a lot of planning and most importantly it happened WHEN THE TIME WAS RIGHT FOR THEM!

You will get plenty of advice dressed up as “feedback” or “suggestions”, and some even more direct  people will say “what you should do is this..”

But if you find yourself trapped in any kind of situation this week, this month or this year, try to find a space to think about how things could be different, without wasting time on “how stupid I was not to see this happen” or “everyone will be disappointed if I leave/stay/change” or the most wasteful of all thinking patterns “If I change things I will feel a failure” 

Try to sit and without any of the above emotions and without judgment, and make a list of how things might be different. 

What would it feel like? look like? sound like?

What would you be doing differently? 

Sometimes its enough to make a baby step and imagine how it could be different, before you jump head first off a cliff and end up in a heap among the sea weed.

And if you really want to see how things could be different for you, join us on 4th November in the Marine Hotel Sutton  for a one day workshop “How to build your own life raft”, a day to create your own plan to get out of shark infested waters and onto safer ground.
Saturday, November 4th, 2017. 10am – 4pm
The Marine Hotel, Sutton, Dublin 13.
Cost: €65 (inc. light refreshments). Payable in advance.
To book your place or for further information please contact
Anne McDonald at creativelythinking9@gmail.com / Tel: 089 232 9373




Have you heard of this book, been given a copy, started it but never finished it or is it gathering dust on your book shelf?

The book by Julia Cameron has to be one of the all time books on people’s list of “I must get around to reading that”. Its been around for over 25 years and most people have heard of it, some people have actually completed and many more have been meaning to get through it but fell off the wagon at chapter 3 🙂

Well, tonight, in the community school in Carrickhill Rd Upper, Carrickhill, Portmarnock, Co. Dublin at 7.30 you can come along and see what exactly all the fuss is about, or meet a group of people who are about to start it with the intention of finishing it, once and for all!

If you are not really sure what the class is about rest assured of one thing;

You do not have to be an artist! Or a writer. Or a musician.

All you need is a curiosity about how being creative can help you reduce your stress levels, prioritize what is important to you, and help you create space in your daily life for something other than work, worry and waiting for the perfect time to do something for yourself 🙂

So if you would like to come along with no obligation, this evening you would be very welcome! If you like it you can come again next week, if you don’t, then thats perfectly fine too!

Just give me a call/text at 0892329373 or mail at creativelythinking9@gmail.com 🙂

If you get there a few minutes before 7.30, Jenny will show you where to go! 🙂



This Saturday, how about giving yourself, your friends, your nearest and dearest a treat (or a break) and coming to Naul for a FREE one hour Laughter Workshop in the beautiful Seamus Ennis Centre in Naul  (www.tseac.ie)

The workshop kicks off with a welcome at 10am and goes downhill from there 🙂 🙂 🙂

Did you know that Laughter is the painless way to burn fat, release endorphins, ease stress and make you feel good. It is highly contagious and will affect those around you for much of the day after the workshop 🙂 🙂 🙂

To register your interest or book your place, please contact Anne at creativelythinking9@gmailcom or text 0892329373 so we can make sure we have a chair for you and a bottle of water…..all you need is comfy clothes!

If you have been to our Laughter Workshops before and enjoyed them but can’t make it this date, feel free to refer a friend/colleague/spouse/long distant cousin, everyone is  welcome 🙂