I love asking other creatives questions and Jennifer Cockcroft has been someone I’ve wanted to ask lots of questions.
Jennifer launched a Kickstarter campaign a little while ago, for her very own Moments Journal. I think she’s created a beautiful product, I love journalling AND it’s approaching that time of year when many of us like to ‘put a bow’ around the present year and think about the year to come. With all of this in mind, I thought it an ideal time to share Jennifer’s thoughts and give you a little peek into The Art Of Contentment classroom.
At the end of the post, you’ll find links to learn more about Jennifer and her fabulous Moments Journal.
I hope you’ve enjoyed your little glimpse into the classroom and I hope you’ll join us in class…
Thanks Jennifer for being a wonderful guest… x
Questions and Answers…
Since I’ve been delving deep into the topic of finding contentment in a busy world, I’m curious to hear what contentment means for you?
Contentment to me feels like those moments when you can give a happy sigh of satisfaction, that all is right with the world, you have everything you need, and there’s nothing you need to do right then except enjoy the moment for what it is. It’s Sunday mornings and waking up from a long sleep feeling rested and just lying in bed for a while luxuriating in the comfort and peace. It’s being with people you love and who understand you, and not feeling pressured to put on an act, or even talk if you don’t want to, just enjoying the companionable silence. It’s knowing you’ve done your best at something and accepting that what will be will be.
I’m a bit of a word geek and like to look up the meanings and origins of different words to flesh out my understanding of them, and to filter the parts that resonate into my own personal definition - some elements of contentment that stick out for me are a sense of satisfaction with present conditions or circumstances, and not unnecessarily desiring external gratification; a feeling of comfort and ease in what is and who you are; and peace of mind, and an attitude of mindful gratitude.
Please tell us about your successful Kickstarter campaign with the wonderful Moments Journal? How did it all come about?
Thank you - the Moments Journal began as a personal practice born out of my own struggles to find a way of journalling that felt right to me - I didn’t want to just list events and happenings in a diary, and longer, stream-of-consciousness writing came with a lot of pressure and expectation attached, plus a tendency to ruminate on the negative. It really was one of those flashes of inspiration that had me writing down moments from my days that related to my values, what’s important to me, how I want to feel in my life and what I want to invite more of.
It just clicked straight away, and over the months has had a dramatic impact on my mindset, as well as helping me manifest some amazing opportunities and experiences. When I started sharing about what I was doing, it seemed to resonate with other people too, so I decided to turn it into a physical journal to offer to others in order to support them in mindfully and gratefully savouring the moments in their life that matter to them.
The Kickstarter campaign came about as a way of growing exposure for the project, building a community around it, and on a practical level, to raise the money needed to get the journal professionally printed and bound. I’ve done all the design work myself, but without raising the money through Kickstarter for pre-ordered copies of the journal, I’m not sure that it would have become a reality quite so quickly - I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who got behind the campaign and I’m excited about seeing the Moments Journal being used by different people all around the world in ways that work for them.
How has your Moments Journal practice helped you to shift your mindset on certain aspects of your life? How do you think it could help others ie. artists, writers, photographers, women in general?
It’s probably become the biggest tool in my mindfulness arsenal - the practice of writing in my journal every day has really helped me focus on what matters to me, to the qualities that I value, and especially being grateful for even the littlest, or seemingly negative things. By jotting down snapshots, moments from the day, and ‘tagging’ them according to these value words I’ve created a huge directory of evidence that actually, my life is pretty amazing! As someone who has struggled with depression and poor mental health, this has been one of the best things for helping me turn around my attitude, because even on the darkest days, there are always things to appreciate - whether it’s a hot cup of tea, hearing a bird singing, making the bed and putting on clean clothes, receiving a message from a friend, or managing to cook perfect scrambled eggs (my cooking Holy Grail!).
In terms of supporting others, the process within the Moments Journal is designed to be completely flexible according to the individual - it centres around identifying the kinds of moments that matter to you (your values), and using them as your starting point for what you notice and appreciate each day. And it doesn’t just have to be a written journal - there’s scope to use it and make the most of it in whatever way you like - whether it’s using different colours for different moments, adding photos, or even drawing or painting an expression of your moments - I’d love to see it being used really creatively!
The other key thing that I’ve found, and I’ve heard similar feedback from a few people who tested out the journal for me, is that it helps you redefine what your values really mean to you. For instance, my own definition of Abundance used to centre almost exclusively around financial wealth, but once I started using it as a category in my journal, I found all kinds of other moments that made me feel abundant in different ways, and the more I noticed, the more they kept appearing. I think this could be a really good way for people to explore their thoughts and feelings about Creativity - it’s a concept that many people have quite set ideas about, but once you dig into what being creative really looks and feels like in your own life, it’s surprising what comes up. The same goes for anything really - it would be interesting for people taking your course to delve into definitions of contentment (as I did earlier), self expression, or slow living, and see what they discover about themselves.
I know you have a full life, what tactics do you use to enable you to slow down and access the simple moments in your life?
It’s definitely tricky sometimes! My Moments Journal is one tool, and in a way, knowing that it’s there waiting to be filled at the end of the day helps keep me aware and looking for the moments that I’ll want to capture. Also, making a commitment to self-care has been really important - since leaving my last corporate job due to burn out, I’ve developed my own routines that encourage me to slow down, for instance I do yoga every morning when I wake up to stretch out my body ready for the day, and then I’ll meditate, usually by listening to a guided recording, to give my mind a few more minutes of calm and quiet. Whenever I’m walking anywhere I try to be aware of my surroundings as much as possible, and to engage all my senses, so that I pay attention to the details around me, whether it’s the architecture of a building, a formation of clouds, or the colour of a flower - the only trouble with this is I end up attracting funny looks when I’ve stopped and am staring intently into a hedge! In my business, I’ve set my non-negotiables that allow me to maintain a balance, so you’ll never find me working late into the night (getting eight hours sleep is far more important!), and I make sure I have space and time to spend on personal creative projects like knitting - this has been one of the most therapeutic crafts for me as the rhythmic and repetitive movements are incredibly calming.
I notice from your website, that you obviously love colour and beauty. How do you welcome ‘beauty’ into your every day?
Oh yes! I absolutely love colour, I think it can have such an impact on mood, so I love to be surrounded by their uplifting and inspiring energies. For me, beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder, and I believe that tastes and preferences can change, and that you can have apparently opposing ones simultaneously. Beauty to me is often something that inspires a visceral or emotional reaction - often not one that is easily put into words or explained, but just a sense of ‘I love that, just because!’ Welcoming it is easy, because there’s so much around all the time, but I do make sure I stay open to opportunities for experiencing it, as well as actively going looking for it. I see so much beauty in my social media feeds from people sharing their own creations in a vast array of media, images of nature and natural phenomena, reading books and magazines, and of course visiting and exploring different places.
None of us like adversity, or trying circumstances but I’m curious about any strategies you call upon during these inevitable stages of life? Is it even possible to feel gratitude for these hard moments, if so, how?
I think it is possible - with the right attitude, almost everything can be seen as a learning opportunity. Perhaps not always at the time, but that’s why hindsight is such a wonderful thing! I haven’t always been very good at coping with trying circumstances, but over the years as I’ve come to know myself better, it’s become easier to find acceptance and a way to move forward. Tuning in and being able to trust your intuition is really important - knowing what feels good or right to you, even if there’s a lot of external ‘noise’ or pressure can really help you find a space of quiet. If you need to physically remove yourself from a situation for a while in order to do this, then that’s great, the trick is noticing before this turns into running away, because ultimately this is never a solution. And sometimes, recognising what’s really going to be good for you and help you feel better and forcing yourself to do it, even if you feel you don’t want to, can be a much more effective strategy than wallowing - getting up off the sofa and out of the house for a short walk in the fresh air will more often than not help clear your head and give you more energy, instead of thinking you need to rest more and ending up mindlessly scrolling online. Having a good support network around you can be really instrumental in helping you get through things - whether it’s close family, a group of friends, or professional support like a counsellor or coach - being able to talk to someone and share how you’re feeling can help you make sense of and come to terms with what’s going on. And of course, remembering those simple moments, the little things you can appreciate every day, can help start to stack the odds in your favour - I really believe gratitude is a cumulative practice, and though you might start with small things, if you keep going you’ll suddenly find you’ve got a huge list of stuff to be thankful for, and then the negative situation becomes just that - a moment within a whole that is actually pretty good after all.
I know you have some upcoming projects lined up, can you share a little of what they are?
Absolutely! The Moments Journal is currently in production and the first print run of pre-orders will be shipping out to backers of the Kickstarter campaign early in the new year. I’m also working on a free course to guide people in identifying the moments that matter to them and defining their values so that they can use them as a starting point with the journal - this will be available as an email offering via my website soon. Then, I’ll be opening the order books again for more people to get their hands on the journal, and developing other ideas to expand the range, possibly including mini pocket journals for taking on your travels, and I’d love to work with artists to help me create new covers to offer different special editions. I’m also doing a range of writing work for my own blog, guest posts for others, and for magazines, and am looking forward to seeking out new opportunities in this area. I’ve recently decided to close my Etsy shop and sell off my existing stock, but hand crafting is something that I love to do, so I’m thinking about different ways that I could share what I make with people who want to buy them - but I also want to spend a bit more time on personal projects and already have quite a long list to tackle!
Tell us about some of your creative hobbies?
Primarily I’m a knitter and sewer/sewist and am never far away from yarn and needles or fabric and thread. But I also love to try out lots of different crafts, including cross stitch, calligraphy, pottery, baking and gardening. I haven’t met a craft I didn’t like yet!
How do you relax?
My ultimate relaxation is a wonderfully luxurious back massage, but if I can’t have one of those very often, then reading a good book (I’m a sucker for historical romance fiction) or a mindful magazine is a beautiful way to spend a cosy afternoon. I also go for a swim every week if I can and find that a lovely active form of relaxation, especially during the summer when I can swim in the outdoor pool at my local leisure centre and enjoy the feel of the sun on my back. I’ve been a member of a local choir for the last nine years and going to rehearsals every week is a great way for me to relax, can be really emotionally cathartic, and never fails to leave me without an earworm for days afterwards!
Oh goodness, there are so many - in fact I’ve had to start keeping them all written down in a notebook! One that comes to mind right now is “Not all who wander are lost”, a line from a poem in The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien - it speaks to my own wandering soul, sense of adventure, and appetite for exploration and learning.
Again, I could give you a very long list! I’ve loved Roald Dahl’s stories since I was little, especially The BFG and Matilda, and my copies of The Chronicles of Narnia are nearly falling apart from repeated reading. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are ones I can go back to again and again and always find something new, as are the Clan of the Cave Bear series by Jean Auel. For non-fiction, Tara Mohr’s Playing Big, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic are up there, and I’m keen to read more of Brené Brown’s work soon. I’ve got a reservation list at my local library that should keep me going for several months!
Can I cheat a little bit with this one? I actually wrote a blog post about my favourite pens earlier in the year - you can read it here.
Nope, you’re definitely not getting me to choose just one favourite colour - anything that comes in Rainbow always gets my vote!
Jennifer is a colour-loving multi-passionate creative with an incurable sense of curiosity. She writes her own blog, as well as occasional pieces for magazines, sells her handmade creations online and at local craft fairs, and has recently launched the Moments Journal with a successful Kickstarter campaign. When she's not working Jennifer can often be found with her head in a book, working on her latest knitting project, or dreaming of all the places she wants to travel to one day.
You can read more about the Moments Journal, my blog, and subscribe to my monthly newsletter on my website at www.jennifercockcroft.com