Creative Pathfinding

(More pictures from the place by the sea, Cóbreces)

We had a bit of a hiccup this morning… it started to rain. Ok so I’m not saying we can’t cope with rain, of course I’m not. It’s just you build up a picture of going south  to the sun and no matter how many times you do it there’s a mistaken story that it will be warm and sunny all the time. It’s not. It rains in other countries besides Ireland. It’s just we’re the only ones who talk about it. We probably have more words for rain in Irish than there are in English. I heard that the Inuit have many, many more ways to describe snow than sticky or wet.

(Here’s the gate to the graveyard)

So we’re still in the mode of travelling every day but at the same time it’s raining and we’re in a town. So? So, when it rains there are far more options in a town than in the middle of the mountains in a small village. For one thing there’s the restaurants. We love going out to eat and we love having the option to stay in and cook (well Denis does… I just like eating.) In this town there are numerous restaurants, we went to one last night and had tapas, way too much tapas but we’ll know better about ordering next time. The price is not an indicator of the size of the dish. A €4 dish, it turns out, is plenty for dinner.

(And a cute signpost. I don’t think the arrow is for the Camino de Santiago, it’s the wrong colour)

In spite of the availability and quantity of food, there is a slight problem. With the rain comes rain clouds and the solar panels cannot see the sun. Also, there’s no electricity in our car park so very soon we will run out of power! Only this morning we realised we need a teeny tiny bit of power to use our gas heater. It’s barely 10 degrees here so we will need the heater but if we don’t have even a teeny bit of power… we will freeze!

(Can you see the camper vans? That was Cóbreces)

Ok, we won’t freeze, we could just drive and the heater in the van runs when we drive, it also charges the leisure battery. So, no, we won’t freeze but we do need to consider what to do next? We will find a tourist office. We love tourist offices, they always say yes to the question, do you speak English? We found the tourist office. The nice lady pointed us to a free center with computers, power and WiFi just around the corner. There may even be heat! It doesn’t open until 11 so we are having a quick coffee before we go check it out.

(There were people getting ready to climb this rock as we passed. It’s near the village with the narrow lanes from two days ago)

People often ask me how do we just go away without a plan, what if something goes wrong? I’ve never had a good answer for them. We just go isn’t really explaining it. Anyway, Denis is much better at just going than me. I would probably never do this if it wasn’t for him. I would imagine all sorts of things happening (bad things, I wouldn’t be imagining good things!) Plus in general I’m very good at imagining myself stuck and helpless without a solution.

(Love, love, love the lines (wrinkles) on this tree as it decomposes back into the earth)

I was reading somewhere recently that we never need to be stuck and helpless without a solution because humans are naturally creative. It’s what has kept the human race from going extinct, this ability to think ourselves out of stuck scenarios. This isn’t about making beautiful things, it’s about finding creative ways out of any stuck situation. The only thing that stops us being creative with solutions is a story we have in our minds that we are not capable of finding a way out. We are helpless. But if we look at that story and realise it’s not true our innate creativity will pop up and find a way through. Turns out we are well capable of just going and working things out on the way.

(There we are between Santander and Gijón. By the way, the locals get a great kick out of the way we pronounce Gijón. We pronounce it like Chicken goujons but we should be pronouncing it HeeHon… which is even funnier to us!)

From a warm and friendly free computer center beside the post office in Cangas De Onís, Mairead.

How I wrote a book not entirely on my own

(There was a Time Machine in Besançon… or it might have been a Time Museum)

Settle down, grab a cuppa and let me tell you the story of how I wrote a book with the help of six generous, creative and encouraging people …

It was the 4th of February 2016. There I was travelling around the beautiful old country of Portugal when I sort of fell in love with Andy Weir… Andy is a computer/space geek who loves to write. One day he decided he was going to give up the computers and become a writer. So he started and he sent off his first book to the publishers. He got loads of rejection letters for the first book but he was persistent so he started on a second book. He sent his second book off to the publishers and got even more rejection letters. He repeated this, I don’t know how many times, and then he stopped. He didn’t stop writing, he decided sure didn’t he earn grand money writing software, wouldn’t he be just as happy keeping the writing as a hobby.

(One of the clocks…)

So… he started his next book as a serial on his blog. It was in 2011. His friends loved it, they gave him feedback, they passed the blog on to their friends, he had some really high up people in the space industry correcting some of his science (By the way this is Andy Weir and I’m talking about The Martian – great book and great movie starring Matt Damon) he was having a ball!  Eventually he finished his book, while working away at his computer day job.

(Lip seem to be famous clock makers)

Some of his friends started to ask, “Hey Andy, any chance I could get that little book of yours to give to my girlfriend/mother/Dad they don’t know how to get at the blog posts?” So, Andy, lovely man that he is, gathered all the posts into an easy to read file (quite a time-consuming job for lovely Andy) and sent the file to his friend. He also put a link on the blog for anyone else who wanted everything all together. Then someone wanted to read it on their kindle and try as he might the lovely Andy couldn’t get it onto the kindle without charging a minimum price (an Amazon requirement.) So he charged the minimum and people started buying and money started accumulating in his account. (By the way… the full book was still on the blog – for free.) Then slowly but surely the kindle book started going up the Amazon charts and… surprise, surprise, the publishers started contacting him…. and then the movie producer rang… and that’s what happened to Andy.

(Time flying…)

The magic of Andy’s story is that he loved to write and he wrote even when it seemed like there was no good reason. And I love that he found a way to share his writing. Every time I wonder if it’s worth doing any of the things I do so that I can share my writing, I think of Andy and I ask myself: What would Andy do? He never lets me down, his advice is always great and he is never in a bad mood. One morning I was talking to Andy and he was saying maybe I could think about sharing the book I wanted to write on my blog? Andy thought that was a great idea. I thought that was a terrible idea and I had to go lie down to stop feeling nauseous. So Andy waited until I was feeling better (he’s considerate like that) and he suggested gathering a small team of readers and send chapter-sized chunks to them each week. Isn’t he really smart?  (Just so you know, she has never spoken to Andy or emailed him, this is all in her mind – Denis.) So that’s what I did.

(The email I penned to Pam and Allan, Sheena and Moira and Denis asking them to be readers….)

They all said yes and each Friday I sent the chunk of book I had written that week and they sent me back their encouragement. They also did the exercises and either sent pictures of their creations or news of their creative progress. On the 1st of April 2016  (yes, it was April Fools Day) I sent them the last chunk. It was done. It had taken eight weeks. It did take another two months to publish the ebook and a further two months to produce the paperback.

(There’s a cow in the fog and some more in the distance)

Then life happened and I tidied my box of paperback books onto a shelf and got on with dealing with life. Since that time the box has been sitting on a shelf in my studio (fancy name for my front room.) I’ve shared it with a few people but last week it started calling out for completion… So, I thought the least I could do was read it.

(Looks a lot like autumn here)

Back in 2016 my idea was to write a guide for people who didn’t realise they were creative (note:everyone is creative) and were hesitant about starting a creative project, thinking they weren’t good enough. I wanted them to be able to (at least temporarily) turn off the critical voice in their head so that they could get on with the work they needed to do to bring their project into the world. Reading my book again I discovered it works for any project…. Like for instance, something that I need at the moment – promoting and selling a book. You wouldn’t believe the mean things my inner critic was saying to me about selling and promoting (well maybe you would) but  because of the book I’m not listening. Now, I have a lovely encouraging voice in my head and it’s telling me to keep going. Keep going!

So here I am reading my book to help me sell my book and I will keep going. If you want to read the blurb or look at my Amazon Author page (imagine that!), click on Creative Monday – The Book. And if you have a voice in your head that’s stopping you from doing something (creative or otherwise) that you’d love to do then buy my book, follow the exercises and do your thing! It’s time for me to push my project out into the world so I can make room (on my shelves) in my head for the next one.

We wrote a book, Pam, Allan, Sheena, Moira, Denis, Andy and Me. Ps I’m keeping the royalties…

I’d rather not tell you…

(I’ll be making cards this time. I’ve been practising)

I’ve checked the calendar and there are just three weeks left until we board the ferry at Cherbourg to come home…and the weekend after that, 17th November,  I’m going to be running a Mindful Crafting Workshop with my friend Linda. (Details at So I need to start telling you about it. There’s just one small problem, I’d rather not tell you…


I realised something about myself earlier this year – I have a habit of giving up on things that I really want to finish. Mainly it’s due to fear. I have a natural pattern even when I’m not afraid to wander onto a new thing before the one I’m on has finished. I get distracted easily and there’s so much beautiful stuff in the world I want to experience it all. But, I also want to experience that delicious feeling of finishing. For example, I love ironing – not enough to do it regularly – but, when I do iron I leave the ironed bundles of clothes and sheets sitting around for days. I do this because I feel great when I finish and want to remind myself that I did it!

(Even more…)

Writing the blog is perfect for me because it gives me the two things I love most –  a place to wander off to and a place to finish up. When I get up in the morning I have a blank slate, yesterday’s blog post is gone, I have to start again, start something new. I’m positively encouraged to wander off. When I finish writing today’s post I’ll send it off and I’m finished. Pressing send used to hold loads of fear for me. For years Denis had to read every blog post before I sent it. To be sure, to be sure of… of what I don’t know but fear can be like that, unspecific. Now, Denis reads the posts the same as everyone else when they get into his email and I have no fear of sending a finished blog post… mostly. There are some blog posts, I am afraid of sending…

(Ok sorry about bringing Christmas up before Halloween…)

I’m afraid of sending the ones that I think might make people reject me. I’m afraid of rejection. Hilarious really… (not actual hilarity, more demented hilarity) as those blog posts are the ones with my most precious message. The positively mind scrambling part of all this is that my most precious message, the one I keep hidden in a safe part of my heart, in case of rejection, is mainly about letting go of rejection! My message to me and to you is that if we pay attention to our thoughts and fears about rejection they will hurt us more than any outside force. Paying attention to my thoughts and fears about rejection, immobilises me. I’ll say that again, it’s the thoughts and fears that immobilise me, not the rejection. Funny thing (again not actual funny): I never get rejected. Do you know why? It’s because I rarely do anything that might get me rejected – I’m too afraid! I will only be able to share my message about rejection when I stop believing in my thoughts and fears about being rejected. I can still have those thoughts and fears I just can’t be paying attention to them. That’s where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness teaches us how to notice our scary thoughts but not believe them.

Are you still there? Do you have any scary thoughts and fears you might want to stop believing?

(Peace and joy all year long… not just for Christmas…)

This has turned into a blog post Denis will have to read a few times. And he hates these ones. He much prefers the funny ones. Or the stories about the people I meet. Or the pictures, he laughed out loud looking at me in the hairdressers. I love when he laughs. I love when you laugh… if I make you laugh you won’t notice my fears.  …and Linda is going to kill me (again, not literally) this blog post is probably going to frighten off anyone who was thinking it was just a bit of fun… sorry, Linda. The MindCraft Workshop is a place where we can share our message through the medium of crafting. One of the places we learned to think about rejection as a child was at the art table, when our creativity wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, attractive enough, up to standard, as good as your sister’s art/ brother’s work/cousin’s grade…. With the help of mindfulness it’s also one of the places we can learn to stop believing those scary thoughts and fears…

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Ok. So, if I didn’t believe my scary thoughts and fears, this is what I’d say:

I would love you to join us on the 17th of November at the Old Stable Studio, Killruddery House, Bray, Co. Wicklow where we will have fun (it’s definitely fun!) be mindful and stop believing our scary thoughts and fears. All the details are at

What would you do if you didn’t believe your scary thoughts and fears? Mairead.

PS Really, tell me, what would you do?

Thanks Mam, for Picking my Dad

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(Our bridge at Alcacer do Sal in the afternoon…)

It’s my Dad’s birthday today. He died on this day 16 yeas ago, but he’s alive in everything I do. For instance this week he was at the Creativity Workshop with me (again, nothing weird going on here…) From the moment it was time to lay down on the floor for the first exercise, he was getting involved.

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(…at sunset)

The exercise was so relaxing, we were to think about our grandmother, didn’t matter which one or even if it was our real grandmother. Then we went off to visit her under the sea (note: no, I did not get into a body of water) because it turned out I could breathe under water (note: no). I was considering my maternal grandmother, getting settled into meeting her again, but no my Dad says, look it’s my mother! So I met my paternal grandmother under the sea. She was delighted to see me. She wanted to hear my stories. She gave me a green pebble with swirling designs on it and sent me back to fight a dragon. As you do.

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(…at night)

I suppose it’s my own fault. We had to bring something from childhood with us to the workshop. In my group the other two people, Jodie and Mitch (waves) brought pictures of their well-loved teddy and rabbit from babyhood. Pictures, because they were travelling by plane and their toy was so precious that plane travel was too dangerous. That’s precious. I couldn’t think what to bring, I didn’t have a childhood toy. So I brought a picture of my Dad and me when I was nearly two, I’m standing on his hand. So I brought my Dad to the workshop.

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(My dad and me doing our party trick!)

I’ve known about my acrobatic gift for a long time and I’ve seen the photo many times in the last 50+ years. I’m almost up to the ceiling and I’m as cool as a cucumber. I have the cutest shoes and the worst type of check kilt. I’m adorable, can hardly keep my eyes off myself. It’s only when I shared it with Jodie and Mitch and they point out my Dad’s face that I see how he looks at me. He can’t take his eyes off me and he looks so happy.

Imagine our lives if we knew we inspired that reaction just by being ourselves. Mairead.

Beware of: Beware of Pickpockets!

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(Black and white and red and green Lisbon…)

It’s 4am. I’m awake. I think. This week has been like a dream, maybe I’m not awake…

Here’s what happened at the workshop (and here’s a link to the website: Shelley and Alejandro said some stuff and now I believe I can be a fairy princess… No, no, not can be, I believe I am a fairy princess.

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(Go left, that is unless…)

Here’s what happened… there was an exercise on the first day called the Interview. You had to pair up in your free time with another participant and interview them with the purpose of introducing them to the group the next day. So I’ve been to enough workshops to recognise this exercise but, there’s a twist. When you sat in front of the group the next day you were your partner. (Note: I forgot to ask my partner for permission before she left yesterday so I won’t be using her real name or her details but I hope you’ll still get the gist.)

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(Tiles in Colégio Militar, my metro station by the big scary bridge)

My partner’s name is Virginia (note: see previous note, her name is not Virginia…) So when I sat in front of the class I said My name is Virginia and I come from Wales, the one in America (note: no she doesn’t…) and then proceeded to tell a story about Virginia. As if I was Virginia. Right, I’m going to assume you’ve got the idea. The being-your-partner twist might seem like a small twist, it was not a small twist for me.

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(Mats in Sintra)

Anyways, going back to the day of the interview. Day 1 of the Workshop, the day I got lost and un-lost going to the workshop and also got lost and un-lost returning from the workshop: In order to interview Virginia (who was determined to get to know as much of Lisbon as she could in 5 days) we travelled to the other side of the city for lunch and a flea market, as you do. So I was perfectly placed for the getting lost part of this story. I got lost. (As an aside I almost met, but didn’t because she didn’t know my name yet and felt shy of calling out, Hey you from my workshop, Karen (from Canada, who never reads blogs) had also travelled with her friend all the way across Lisbon, coincidentally, to precisely, exactly the same spot I got lost in… are you getting this? I hope you’re hearing Twilight Zone music.)

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(Fountain in Sintra)

Moving along and returning to the point. Picture this, I am losing myself in the tiny crowded streets of Lisbon. I have a backpack the size of a small child on my back carrying everything I might need (except plasters, but that’s a different story.) Google still doesn’t know where I am and the only thought in my mind is, beware of pickpockets. (I need to jump aside here again, to say: Beware of thinking: “beware of pickpockets”!) So that when Karen saw me, she said I was moving in a determined fashion (she used other words but this is a mixed audience, no just joking, I can’t remember her exact phrase.) What she didn’t know was that I had lost my mind (… to thinking). The moment I found my bus to the campsite, I remembered Virginia. Oh my god, Virginia’s story is amazing. Followed by, I wonder if she knows it’s amazing? All the way home on the bus and later in the camper van I was preparing for my starring role as Virginia. Not in the, oh holy god how will I get up in front of all these people I’ve just met? No, instead, I could hardly wait to get up in front of everyone! I imagined how I would do it. I would persuade Virginia that we should volunteer to go first! Neither Virginia nor Mairead seem like the volunteer-to-go-first types. But they did volunteer to go first and they told their stories first.

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(Cheese wrapper from keep-in-touch dinner in Sintra)

I want to tell you Virginia’s story, but as I mentioned earlier I forgot to ask and it’s a bit personal, so I will have to change it a little… but I’m tired now, so I’ll tell you tomorrow… or the next day.

Night, night, Mairead.

Sometimes it rains in Portugal…

It’s raining! I know you will be disappointed for me but I’m ok, I have some work to do so it’s probably just as well I won’t be able to sit outside sunning myself… I hear it’s sunny in Ireland!

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(Rocky and a bit cloudy in the distance on Saturday)

My friend Linda (of the tours around Porto) and I ran a workshop called MindCraft at the beginning of February and we’ll be running another one in May and again in June. This week I’m working on explaining what it’s all about for our website. I’ll send you a link as soon as it’s up and running but I thought I could start explaining now to get my thought processes working.

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(Smooth and blue skies on Friday)

MindCraft is a combination of Mindfulness and Crafting in a one day workshop. The Mindfulness part of it is all about staying present with what’s happening around you and within your body instead of the usual things we do. The usual things like  thinking and worrying about the future or thinking and worrying about the past. Or regretting the past or wishing we could repeat it or change it. Or wishing the present could be different. Or wishing we were different. Or wishing other people were different. We sure do a lot of useless thinking when all we really need to do is stay present and aware and deal with what’s right in front of us, right now.

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(There are lots of small gardens like this around here, all dug by hand. In need of rain, I suppose)

Last year when Denis was diagnosed with prostate cancer, everything slowed down to the essential – what do I need to be doing now? I don’t think it’s the big things that cause worry and anxiety… it’s the thinking about what if the big thing happens. In my experience when the big thing does happen you are kinda too busy dealing with it to be thinking about anything.

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(Another one, the small plants look like potatoes, maybe))

Mindfulness is about making us strong enough to deal with whatever life throws at us. So we have a little calm, contentment and the space to think about the important things… love, joy, peace, purpose, relationships, family, connection, community. The crafting is all about creativity and creativity is the route to finding solutions to our challenges. This is important: Thinking and anxiety are not the route to finding solutions to our challenges. Creativity is the route to finding solutions to our challenges, problems, concerns, difficulties, dilemmas, quandaries, troubles, irritants, stumbling blocks, obstacles, the lot! Creative solutions are what it’s all about. Every one of us is creative but not every one of us knows it.  MindCraft wants everyone to know they are creative and that they can come up with their own creative solutions.

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(And another one, I think there’s spring onions there)

So here I sit doing the work I need to do to make the message clear and simple… Mindfulness Strengthens Your Mind, You Are Creative, Creativity Solves Problems!

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(Interesting looking rocks on the beach)

But it’s not enough for me to just make the message clear for myself or others. Writing about mindfulness will not help me to be mindful, thinking about creativity will not help me to come up with creative solutions. So here I sit, also, doing the work of living the message. Everyday I practice mindfulness, I practice noticing what is around me, I practice exchanging worry and anxiety for beauty, I practice exchanging thinking for feeling my feet on the ground, I practice writing and photography and I practice telling myself, this is enough, you are doing enough, you are enough.

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(Behind the harbour buildings there are tables where the women sell the newly caught fish. That’s a cat on the fish scales. Fish weighing scales I mean…)

Step 6. Do the work, Mairead.

Kickstart Your Creativity in 2014


Creative Space Sessions.

You might think you haven’t a creativity bone in your body and you might be right!

Creative bones need to be nurtured and what have you been doing to nurture them? Saying things like, “I’m no good at drawing… “, “I’m useless at sewing…”, “I’m not as good as….”, “I have no talent for…”, “I can’t write… ?”

What if you were saying “Everyone is Creative”, “Creativity is Good for Me”, “Creativity is fun” instead?

Come along to some Creative Space Sessions. You can exercise your creativity by making stuff, or copying stuff already made, or getting inspiration to make something you never thought of making. You also get loads of encouragement.


Combining Life Coaching with crafts helps you notice how useful Creativity can be in all aspects of your life. You’ll learn how to connect with the less logical,and more playful you, the you that sees lots of possibilities.

You don’t need any previous experience (but if you have ever glued paper together then you’re ahead of the posse!)

Would you love to make stuff? Are you making stuff? Would you like to be making (more) stuff? Coming along to a place that allows you to make stuff sounds like a good thing, right?

If your life is busy, it can be difficult to slow down when you want to, or need to… Creative Space Sessions provide an opportunity to slow down and catch your breath.


Sessions Starting From Monday 20th January 2014  – but you can join anytime….

Where: Greystones, Co. Wicklow

Time: Every Monday 10am to 12.30pm

Cost: €15 per session (includes supplies) Minimum 4 sessions.

Contact: Mairead Hennessy 086 827 2332 Email:

Note: Places are limited.

More information at

The Apron of Focus.


(My ceramic apron)

It’s been a really beautiful day here today in Greystones – sunshine, blue shies and little fluffy clouds. I’m still working on my wall painting, but I sense there’s a strong possibility it won’t in fact take five months to complete. I seem focused in a way that has not been my experience in the past. I think my creativity work is effecting even this little project.


(Paper aprons)

When I started my art, craft and design course last year one of the tools we had to supply was an apron. Fair enough, I had lots of aprons for cooking so I used one of them. But although I had lots of aprons to use while cooking I didn’t. I mean, I didn’t use them while cooking. Don’t know why. So I was surprised by how much fun it was to wear them for crafting. Yep – fun. I know – weird.


(Painted crepe paper apron)

Then when we went to France I brought along my favourite apron (you do have a favourite apron, don’t you?) It was natural, crafting was now connected to wearing an apron. Over there putting my apron on seemed to draw me towards the trestle table and work (by work I mean play… with direction!) In the afternoons I kept the apron on for writing the blog post.


(Apron Strings)

Now I think there was a connection between wearing an apron and getting things done. Wearing an apron became an anchor (a strong response to an external trigger) to focussed creative work. And the anchor is still working. Because… the wall painting (I’ve been wearing an apron again and also painting-clothes – wall painting is extremely splatter-y) is definitely getting done.


(And a fuzzy picture of my other ceramic apron)

It was only as I searched for pictures for this blog post that I remembered all the ways aprons inspired my crafting in the past year. I’ve been making aprons in one form or another all this time not realising they were also making me 🙂

I like that, Mairead.

Turn off your DLPFC!

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(Mixed media in progress…)

I’ve been reading and listening to Jonah Lehrer’s book Imagine How Creativity Works. I listened to it last summer with the hens in the forest. They weren’t hugely impressed with Jonah but I really like him so I bought his book too. Anyway, the bit I was re-listening to this weekend was about the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Rather than try, I’ll let Jonah explain it….

While the DLPFC has many talents, it’s most closely associated with impulse control. This is the bit of neural matter that keeps each of us from making embarrassing confessions, or grabbing food, or stealing from a store.”

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(after I heard him say this I highlighted it)

Sounds good, right? Well yes and no…. Most of the time it’s a good idea not to be too impulsive. But what if you’re learning to draw or paint or what if you just want to create a beautiful get well card? What if you want to write something interesting or design something that pleases you? Well, at times like that impulse control is your biggest critic and your biggest enemy. In all fairness it’s trying to protect you from something embarrassing – a silly drawing, an aspiration to write a book, a childish necklace – very scary possibilities.

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(….playing with disposable….)

Turns out the DLPFC is the last brain area to fully develop, that explains why small children have no problem throwing a tantrum in a crowded shop. It also explains why they love their art! No impulse control… no critic. The good news is Jonah tells us about a study where just asking the adult subjects to think of themselves as seven-year olds (and spend a little time writing as their seven-year old self) caused them then to score higher on creativity tasks.

I’m off to play…. Mairead.

P.S. it’s Sunday afternoon as I write ✓