Blog - Carla Coulson
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Magic Is In The Doing: An Interview with Louisa Deasey

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I am so excited to present to you today another fab interview in Magic Is In the Doing series with a creative making her dreams happen, this time it’s author Louisa Deasey.

Louisa has recently published a memoir titled A Letter from Paris and it is a very special book for many reasons. Louisa went on the ultimate creative journey, she followed her curiosity and had the chance to get to know her long lost father’s hopes, dreams, loves and adventures after a mysterious letter arrived from Paris.

Over to Louisa…

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You recently published a memoir A Letter from Paris… which unfolded after you received a letter out of the blue from the granddaughter of a woman in Paris who once knew your father.

This was the ultimate creative journey, you used your curiosity and allowed it to take you on an adventure that ended with you writing a book about it. Can you tell us about ‘the trail of breadcrumbs’ you kept following to bring this journey to life? When did you think it had legs?

Pretty much as soon as I received the email from Coralie (in Paris), I had this feeling of impending doom – lol! You know when you just know you’re going to have to follow something through no matter how or where or what it takes from you? It was that intense and that immediate. It was about my dad, who I’d never known, and I just had this immediate feeling that it’s now or never. If I don’t pursue this now, it won’t just be me who never knows dad, but none of my siblings and their children or this family in Paris who had apparently been wondering about him for decades. I felt like I was the only one who could tell the story, and research the story, and that was a huge responsibility; a huge thrill, a huge fear, a huge risk.

Like anything creative and authentic! It was just ‘huge’.

I should also add that I’d been fruitlessly pitching a fiction novel, I’d worked on for 6 years, to various publishers for about 18 months when A Letter From Paris landed in my lap. Before I’d even written a synopsis for A Letter From Paris I had an offer from a publisher, so I also had this feeling then that – my god! this story was a gift. As much as I knew it would take out of me, it was a gift if I wanted to write another book.

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A Letter From Paris is a creative project of love, sweat and tears; it embodies the ultimate sense of ‘creative living’ – using your life as an art form. How did this project enrich your life, what experiences, people or insights did it give you? What were the challenges?

This is the whole thing about a memoir that I love – we are creating art from the material of our lives, which is oftentimes from pain. It also unites us with people we may never have met. It is a very intimate and personal form of writing. The whole thing was just miraculous. Not only did I find my dad’s memoir (of life in France in the 1940s and 1950s) when I started to research it, I also connected with people who’d known him all across the world; through letters, diaries, and social media accounts.

I opened my self up a lot, writing this book. It was quite painful, which I write about in the book – having to keep repeating that I didn’t know my dad and asking if anyone had any memories or letters to share I would be grateful. 99% of the time they were open, but the ones that didn’t really hurt, because I had put myself in such a vulnerable position to ask.

But I met this incredible French family and I made new friends in France, London and Australia. One of the most special connections was a woman whose dad had written a very long eulogy for my dad, which was never published. I found the full eulogy in the library and went on a wild hunt to find his children (the author is no longer alive). After a strange bump into a long-lost friend on my way home from the supermarket, I sent an email to someone he suggested, who then forwarded it to the children of the man that night. By morning, I woke up to three emails with recalled memories of dad and their phone numbers. Two of the children lived just streets away from me!! I called one of them up and she was home, looking through her family photo albums and invited me to come over. I saw all these photos of my dad I never knew existed, because I’d dared to take the risk.

She’s still a dear friend and has been a huge support in this journey!

But the writing was tough. It’s so emotional – excavating your family history. Unravelling stories that do or don’t have truth in them, exposing yourself on the page. At the same time, I felt in some ways I didn’t have a choice, as the story fascinated me so much. I was quite obsessed!

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I have a saying that ‘magic is in the doing’. That we can all take our dreams to reality if we take inspired action. What were 5 key things or actions that you did to bring this project to life?

  • Listen to your gut. Like I said, the moment I received the email from Coralie I felt this buzzing in my stomach, I knew I had to pursue it. Follow those feelings.
  • Start wherever you are. I had very little information about my dad when I began. I had to just start with that…
  • Find understanding friends – even one could make all the difference. A lot of my most understanding friends have come from the internet! It’s easier than ever to make connections with like-minded people, thanks to Facebook and Instagram and the incredible world wide web. It’s like a global portal! Not everyone gets how difficult the creative process is. I really learned who I could trust when I was working on this book – it’s so personal. Creativity takes a HUGE amount of risk and it may not pay off in the ways you expect (it rarely does!) but you have to do it for your own reasons. Find friends that believe in you or also value these special projects.
  • Keep going, but have breaks when you’re getting overwhelmed
  • Remember that creative work lasts a lot longer than any momentary agony that you might feel during the process. I have this funny quote from Leo DiCaprio while he was filming Romeo and Juliet with Baz Luhrmann: Pain is temporary, film is forever. Yes, you’ll have to mine the depths to bring forth your best and deepest work. But when it’s out there and finished you can rest and know that you’ve made the most of this one wild, beautiful life you’ve been given. You’ve created something that’s going to last longer than you!

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How important was it to get your message out there? What were 5 things you did in those moments of difficulty that kept you moving forward and what did you learn about this process? 

I wanted to get a publisher because I needed a deadline. If I didn’t have a deadline I could have researched my dad’s life for twenty years!! His material is in over a dozen library collections and who knows how many private collections across the world. So even though I didn’t even know the end of the story, and it was intensely personal, I pitched it to an agent and a publisher within weeks of hearing from Coralie. This was really emotionally tough as I felt so exposed. I found an agent for this reason as I needed someone to negotiate the money, business and contract side of things that wasn’t me (ie. grappling with accepting the value of the story and of my own writing.) A friend had said to me after I was made an offer on the book (before even writing the synopsis!) it was the only time I would have any power in the process so I should get an agent at that moment. So I did, and I’m grateful to her for that advice, as I’m not that comfortable with being in a position of ‘power’!

A Letter from Paris has now been published in Australia, the United Kingdom and will be released in the US in October – the ultimate creative dream!!! How does it feel to look back to that first email and now hold a book in your hand and see it on bookshelves or photos of them from around the world?

It’s pretty beautiful actually, but what makes me happiest of all is that the French family (Coralie’s family) love the book as they feel it’s brought their grandmother back to them. And Coralie read her initial email out on the BBC London podcast, which was amazing! I love hearing how it’s received in different countries. The English response about my obsession with European trains was funny – they don’t understand how bad our train system is in Australia! I’m really curious to see the response in the US. Dad wasn’t famous, and none of the book is set in the US, but there was a strong American contingent in Paris in the 1940s and 1950s (on the GI Bill) who dad associated with. So it will be exciting to see. It’s a dream come true!

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What is one piece of advice you would give to someone else who wants to follow their dreams?

Have a vision and keep driving forward. If it feels right in your gut then you have to pursue it – until completion. Don’t give up when it gets tough! Have a break, sure, but don’t give up.

How do you keep saying YES to your dreams and what do you do when fear strikes?

I get scared all the time, but I also know that I can trust myself when I give myself enough time to listen to my intuition and check in with what feels right. It has to feel right. If it’s not authentic I just have no interest in doing it. When fear strikes, I just try and be a bit gentle with myself and see if it’s because of a valid reason or if I’m just feeling vulnerable. I put myself out there a lot with this book, and all the publicity around it, and the kickstarter to publish dad’s French memoir! So I’ve needed to just take lots of ‘cocoon’ breaks and get back to my study/cat/house and remember who I am: a writer who loves to sit and tap tap tap at the keyboard, and communicate with beautiful people across the world. I love writing – emails especially!

A huge thanks to Louisa for sharing her story and her creative process with us. You can follow Louisa on Instagram HERE and get her regular blog updates HERE.

Love, light, and creativity,

Carla X

P.S. If you would like to know more about how you can realise your dream you can download my video series on how to Get What You Want HERE.

5 Ways To Transform Your Health

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It has been a while since I have written about my journey to wellbeing and how I kissed goodbye my three auto-immunes, Alopecia Areata, Lichen Sclerosus and Graves disease. You can read the original posts HERE.

Without good health and a good level of energy it is difficult to change your life or go after the things that are really important to you.

I have seen this in the Yes Yes Yes – The Year You Say Yes to Yourself group, that when women’s health improves so does their goals, dreams and ability to go after them.

There have been so many lessons to learn about transforming my health but one of the most important one is not to be passive when it comes to your health. We have the power to improve our wellbeing by adjusting how we live, what we eat, drink and the way we react to the environment around us. Good health is holistic, not just about diet, it’s also about our emotions, stress levels and many other factors.

My journey will be different to yours because each of us are unique and it is this very uniqueness that makes you special. I needed to go slower, you may need to go faster. I needed to let go of acidic foods, you may need to add some. My gut health was compromised, yours may be in perfect order. My psychological ‘wounds’ were unique to me, and you may have your very own set.

What you can do and I would like to pass onto you, is the excitement and knowledge that you can gain from learning about food. We play a BIG part in our health and it isn’t the responsibility of a doctor or a naturopath to figure it all out. It’s our responsibility to treat our bodies with love, to feed and nourish them with foods that they need and not to abuse them and then wonder why they no longer work.

veges for a week

If you are suffering from chronic illness, my number one recommendation is to find a local naturopath you trust and work together with a doctor so you can bring back the harmony in your wellbeing and you can take the great energy you receive as a gift and put it into creating the life you dream of!

You can start learning about health and informing yourself through books such as The Wahls Protocol by Terry Wahls, Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, Mystery Illnesses by Anthony Williams, or Super Genes by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi.

You and your body are perfect. If you are suffering from chronic illness today, it is simply that your body is out of harmony and it needs to be brought back to its natural balance. Your health is in your hands and ultimately if you aren’t happy with the way you feel, you have the power to change that by working with doctors and natural health practitioners to heal.

Our health is in our hands.

 

5 Ways you can improve your health and energy today

 

MOVEMENT

 

  1. Move at least 30-40 minutes a day, walk, dance, ride, run or workout.
  2. Become conscious of your posture when working and take breaks during your work day and get up and move.
  3. Rest when you are tired.
  4. Regulate your breathing and take time during the day to calm your breath.
  5. Incorporate yoga, stretching or pilates where you are ‘opening’ your muscles and joints.

 

FOOD

 

  1. Add more fresh food and vegetables to your daily diet.
  2. Check your water intake.
  3. Chew slowly and listen to your body and what it needs.
  4. Swap processed, packet or canned foods for natural foods.
  5. Add Super foods, on a regular basis such as sprouts, algae (dulse), herbs and spices.

 

ENVIRONMENT

 

  1. Declutter and free up space.
  2. Remove electrical devices from around your bed.
  3. Beautify your surroundings.
  4. Add plants and pets (if you can).
  5. Remove objects with toxic memories.

 

EMOTIONAL

 

  1. Remember you are a lovable human being and to receive love, you need to show love to yourself and others.
  2. Observe your reaction to events and the energy it takes from you.
  3. Notice what brings you joy and happiness and build more of that into your day.
  4. Make a practice in your day to bring peace and calm.
  5. Forgive people, yourself and situations on a regular basis.

 

LIFE PURPOSE

 

  1. Follow hunches and intuitive messages about things you might like to try.
  2. Don’t ignore things that are important to you.
  3. Use your beautiful voice.
  4. Keep digging till you find something you connect to.
  5. Say YES only to the things you want to do.

 

Let your curiosity be your greatest ally. I hope this helps you start improving your health today.

Love and light,

Carla

Magic Is In The Doing: An Interview With Domenica More Gordon

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I am super excited to share this interview with talented creative Domenica More Gordon in my series on Magic is in the doing, about taking a creative idea and making it real.

Domenica is such an inspiration working across different artistic fields including illustration and watercolour, felt animal sculptures and her recent venture, a stop motion film for the BBC about her wonderful dog Archie from her books of the same name

Dominica’s creativity and honesty make you open your heart and see you can be good at more than one thing and how embracing our creativity is also about embracing our vulnerability.

Over to the beautiful Domenica.

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How many years of practicing art did it take to make dogs such an intrinsic part of your art? Was there a special feeling that happened when you first drew Archie?

I had been struggling with trying to write a children’s book since my own children were born. It began with a strong like/dislike to what I was seeing on the bookshelves, further fuelled by memories of my own childhood. So I suppose a sort of unconscious process of sorting and choice was sparked and then turbocharged by the intensity of emotion having children released in me. It was at this time that I gave up working in magazines and began to concentrate on my art. I had no idea if I would be successful, but I trusted the strength of my feelings. Dogs seem to me to be pure emotional transmitters and that appeals to me enormously.

 

What is the importance of getting your work out there and being seen? I’d love to know your thoughts on platforms such as Instagram, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Amazon and all the opportunities for creatives.

There is a great strength to be had from positive and generous feedback from strangers. That is a huge part of why I enjoy Instagram so much. It gives me confidence that I am on the right track and a sort of startled delight that people like what I do. It never tires. At the same time, I think it is important not to go after coverage just for itself. Let it come to you. Grow slowly. If I like an image I put it out there, if I am undecided I don’t …I wait until it feels right. Take pleasure in the process and it grows by itself. If you allow likes etc. to be the driving force behind your choices, you lose your own compass. I am married to a writer and for us the emergence of all the internet platforms is a boon. It is a golden time for storytellers and makers. We can appeal directly to people without having to go through a gallery or an agent (though agents can be very useful at the right moment).

Domenica More Gordon, art

Whether you are illustrating the beautiful Archie series what is your secret to putting so much emotion into your work?

I look for an idea, and it can be a tiny thing that sparks it, like the way someone sits or walks, or seeing a bird on a twig or a certain shape or colour but it has to give me a flare of excitement, no matter how small or fleeting. I have learned to take note of these moments. I then try and feel the feeling behind that flare before I put pencil to paper, then I just let it flow with as little judgement as I can. Often I have to leave what I have done and come back to it before I can ‘see’ it with clear eyes. Then I start to ink it in and add colour. I know it is finished when a right feeling suddenly clicks, and there it is. Until then I never know if it will be any good. I’m getting better at trusting the process.

 

I believe for creatives so much of our magic comes actually playing around with our creativity or taking an action step forward. What ‘magic in the doing’ have you have learnt about showing up for yourself and your creativity every day?

I agree with that strongly. It is only in the doing that you find out what it is you are and what it is that you are telling yourself. It starts a conversation with yourself which does not include any other voice but yours. That is both exciting and scary. It is the most rewarding journey I can think of. After a bit, you will find that you are also talking with an unseen group of others who are the following the same path and that is a joy.

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Image Credit: Bible of British Taste

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Image Credit: Bible of British Taste

It appears to be a bonus growing up with artistic parents but I am sure there are all sorts of comparisons that can block you as well. What did you have to let go of to find your style?

My father was a brilliant watercolour painter and my mother a wonderful artist who hid her light under a bushel. They both influenced me. They showed me about focus, about dedication, about process and just doing… and about getting out from under that bushel.

It made me feel two opposing things at once: ‘If they can do it, so can I’… and at the same time, ‘I will never be as good as they are.’

It took me a long time to find my ‘voice’ as opposed to a version of theirs, especially my father’s… I never thought I’d be good enough… I still struggle with that sometimes…I think that’s a very female tendency.

 

You are a great believer in following your curiosity, can you share with us your number one way that people can start to understand their inner vision or style?

Follow the feeling. If you are excited by something, pay attention. That feeling is your compass and belongs to nobody else but you.

 

How do you keep saying Yes to your creativity and what do you do when fear strikes?

If you do what brings you joy and satisfaction, regardless of the self-defeating spanners which you and others will throw in your path you will find that you have begun a totally fulfilling journey which in my view is pretty unbeatable.

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Huge thanks to Domenica for sharing her wisdom.

You can follow her on Instagram HERE and check out more of her work on her website: www.domenicamoregordon.com.

Creativity, love, and light,

Carla

How Your Life Experiences Inspires Your Creativity

Carla Coulson by Loc Boyle

Image by Loc Boyle

“But I tell you, for me, each photographer brings his own light from when he was a kid —
in this fraction of a second when you freeze reality,
you also freeze all this background. You materialize who you are.”

~Sebastiao Salgado

 

At the age of 35, I rocked up in Florence as an expert of nothing, or so I thought.

 

I stood there that day as I made the decision to sign up for photography school with what I believed to be a clean slate upon which a new story would be written.

 

I had no great expectations. At that moment, I had sold my business and I had enough money to attend photography school for a year to re-educate myself and to pay for my rent and food if I watched what I spent.

 

I felt like a girl who had just received the ‘get out of jail’ card in a real game of Monopoly. I had worked my whole life and here for the first time I stood in a piazza with not much to do.

 

My backstory was WORK starting at the age of 15 working part-time at Woolworths and from then until that moment standing in the piazza, I felt like I had never stopped.
CC by LB in Posi_3107 HORIZONTALBW
After I moved to Sydney, I went straight to work in a bank. That lasted a year then I went back to school and studied my HSC at tech college and dreamed of being a nurse. I did better than I expected in the HSC, so I decided to be a physiotherapist simply because I had more marks. That entailed studying science at the University of NSW and for about 6 months I tried. Though, I felt lost from day one. It was me and a bunch of blokes -I had never felt so much in the wrong world.

 

Towards the end of the year, I quit and found a job at the Sydney Swans where I started working full time. I had a lot of fun in this job, eventually working in the promotions and marketing department when a flamboyant doctor bought the team. It was here where I met my business partner and we went on to start our own promotional clothing business in Sydney.

 

Back in Florence, walking into a darkroom I was excited, but I didn’t have great expectations. I had tried photography twice in my life and ‘failed’ or at least hadn’t connected with it. Here I was again almost 20 years later and having another try. At 19, I had worked in a photography studio in Sydney for a couple of days assisting some poor guy whose life was photographing beer bottles. For me it was the dullest job on the planet as we moved these bottles by increments based on where the light was coming from. I decided photography wasn’t for me. In my 30’s still in Sydney, I signed up for a TAFE course and was the only girl who managed to take an entire roll of film without anything on it. Yet again, feeling so ashamed I never went back to that course.

 

carla coulson, creative coach, creative entrepreneur

 

But during this third go at trying to learn photography something magical happened. When I saw an image appear in the developer under a dim red light it felt like a miracle had happened. I had exposed some light on a piece of paper from an enlarger, placed it carefully in a container filled with developer, gently moved it from side to side and for a couple of seconds all I saw was white paper with a red glow. Slowly, slowly she came to life. The face of a little girl so very faint in the beginning and as I kept rocking the tray, the blacks started to fill in as did the grey tones till after a minute or so, there she was staring back at me.

 

In a dark, humid space with just a red light I had witnessed true alchemy. It was wondrous- all I could say was WOW. I wanted to do it again and again.

 

What I have since realised is that none of us are clean slates. There are no clean slates. We might be learning new skills but what we have inside of us is a mountain of information, experiences, opinions, colours, language, sense of humour, loss, happiness, sadness, stories and ways of looking at the world.

 

When I walked out on the streets of Florence, I carried all of this with me. I took my new found ‘tool’ the camera alongside me and pointed it at things that resonated with me, that something inside of me was attracted to. I didn’t know at the time that many of the things I pointed my camera at were things I was longing for or felt were missing in my life.

 

I granted myself permission to photograph whatever I liked. I had no previous schooling and I didn’t know any of the great photographers other than the ones I was slowly learning about in school. I didn’t yet understand all the important moments in photographic history or art for that matter. I just kept taking photos. This beautiful freedom that came with no judgement was exhilarating! Often I would take the same kind of subjects over and over again, such as people hugging or kissing, or the Madonna in every form on every street corner.

 

Florence

 

Within 2 years, I’d published my first article of words and photos for Marie Claire. Within 4 years I had a book contract where I wrote the story and took the photos. Many of the photos were those first photos I ever took whilst still at photography school.

 

What I have come to realise is that my creativity was always there inside of me, like it is right there inside of you. Once I learned a skilled I added ‘my opinion’ or point of view. It has only been in looking back I started to see how my style developed.

 

Italian Joy became a visual mantra of what I wanted to bring into my life.

 

I adore the quote attributed to Michelangelo, “Every block of stone has a sculpture inside of it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” That’s what allowing myself to be creative feels like to me. We are setting free something that we already have. Maybe we need to put on new glasses to see it, but it is always there and we are setting free these things into the world. We are giving birth to our ideas and materializing them with our hands, instruments and tools.

 

“Sculpture, like editing, is about chiseling away at the unnecessary, at the external, in pursuit of the truth and beauty within or by building something up,”  Nils Parker says in his piece, The Angel in the Marble. Whether you do it by chipping away or some other form, all of it is creating. Whether it is a digital download from the cosmos or the divine work that was already in your heart, the act of creating is everyone’

 

So my lovelies no matter what age you are you already have powerful inspiration inside, it just needs to be set free..

 

Love and light,

 

Carla