Coping with the festive season…creatively!

Today I talk with Doret about surviving Christmas, getting things done, and how to weave your creative projects into busy daily life. Doret is a South African based writer, language teacher and coach and specialises in language coaching, daily-life-structuring and recommending story books.

So Doret, you specialise in helping people organise their daily lives – can you explain a bit more about what that means?

That makes me sound really organised, doesn’t it? I hope no-one who’s seen my desk or “calendar” reads this! Often people who are going through a big change like retirement or relocation or a job change, feel a bit lost in their new life. So many things to try, so many things they miss, so many “shoulds” and often the day ahead has the same blank threatening glitter as the blank page in front of the writer. So when people are caught somewhere between the overwhelm of all the possibilities and the floating lack of structure in their day, I help them to try out some changes in habit. Now “routine” and “structure” sound very rigid, and it can be a pleasant surprise to find how fun and creative the right solution might be. For instance, keeping a sketch book next to the toilet to remind you to do a little drawing or taking your laptop to the local library instead of a café. A coach once told me to re-structure my research project as if it were an expedition and I finished a chapter I’d been struggling with for months! But of course, tossing out all sorts of ideas is only the beginning. I think the accountability that a coach provides, makes an even bigger difference. Something simple like a weekly deadline to send a coach an email to say “I’ve learnt two pick-up lines in French today”, can be more effective than saying to yourself “I’m going to be disciplined and try harder this week to spend an hour a day on French.”

What are your tips for surviving and thriving through the holiday season?

Think small. This works for both pleasant and unpleasant disruptive times. When your schedule at work is too hectic to allow any painting or when you have to spend two weeks travelling and you are too tired to write, I would give you the same advice. Try to write a haiku on the days you can’t get any other writing done. That way your creative gears stay oiled, you keep some sort of handle on your writing life during even the most chaotic times and afterwards I have something pretty to show for it – even the lamest little poem or sketch tells you something when you look back afterwards. So think “funny haiku contrasting snowy Christmas scene with the summer weather we have this side of the planet” instead of “I don’t have time for all this tinsel while my novel is rotting in a drawer”. The incessant commercialism, the frantic dashes to tired malls, the squabbles and explosions over endless days of trying to make the day perfect for too many different people… slouch into a corner and text a haiku to a frazzled friend. Apart from keeping creative endeavours rolling while you’re stuffing your face, this works well for other holiday problems too. That little sketch you scratch on a napkin becomes your little breathing space. The little note you make in your book about a funny spelling error you saw in the supermarket aisle becomes your crutch. The string of haikus on your phone becomes a glittering little present to yourself and your friends on the receiving end. Plan ahead… buy presents early… prepare dishes ahead and freeze… are you kidding me? But 5-7-5 syllables, that I can do.

How do you think learning a language can enrich your life?

Through my work as a language teacher, I’ve become increasingly interested in the side-benefits of learning languages. And especially learning little bits of languages, because I think people often become discouraged when they think about “fluency”. I think that learning even a few new words pay off. Not just for communicating but for the sheer entertainment value they add to your life. It can also be surprising what a translation of your personality and your wishes can teach you about yourself and what is important to you.

Why does Barbara Sher’s work appeal to you?

The first of her books I read I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What it Was (Isn’t that just the best title?) made me sit bolt upright. Not only was this woman different and entertaining, but it felt like she knew me. Her take on things is practical, funny, clearly set out and doable. As the originator of “Success Teams“ and the term “Scanner” for people with many interests, it’s no wonder some people call her “The Godmother of Coaching”. Since her first book shoved me in the right direction, I have read most of the others and I love her new channel on YouTube as well as her subscription service Hanging Out with Barbara Sher. I guess another reason why her work appeals to me, is because her straightforward practicality and humour fit well with my personality.

What’s one thing you’d recommend to someone who has a goal they want to get done in the new year?

Get company. Rustle up a support group or get a coach or join a Success Team.


Great advice! Thanks Doret. I think I’ll be doing some haiku myself – maybe in the queue at the post office, or in transit to my next Christmas get together.

To all readers of this blog this year, clients, collaborators, fellow art therapists, bloggers and beyond: I hope you have a wonderful, warm, restorative holiday season and a New Year filled with creative possibilities.


About the interviewee

Doret is a South African based writer, language teacher and coach and specialises in language coaching, daily-life-structuring and recommending story books. She helps people daunted by the task of brushing up a language, learning a new language or adapting to a new life phase. She writes about books, languages, her expeditions and life-long teaching on her blog The Dusty Shelf Academy.

About the interviewer 

Jade Herriman is a Sydney based transpersonal art therapist and coach. She draws on over 15 years experience working in government and higher education as a sustainability professional, researcher and facilitator. Jade integrates the principles of client centered counseling and group facilitation with art therapy processes and her own experience of creative practice. Jade runs a variety of creative workshops and offers individuals art therapy or coaching, both face to face and remotely.

2 thoughts on “Coping with the festive season…creatively!”

  1. Thanks Jade, I enjoyed talking to you! Did anyone try the haiku thing? 🙂 Here’s one of mine:

    Flames of yellow buds
    bright spider climbs its ladder
    Karoo’s tree trimming

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