I met Nicola Newman seven years ago on a wintery afternoon in a cafe on Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. At the time, she was living on the Sunshine Coast and hosting an online program teaching people how to grow their own organic vegetable gardens. We found out later that we love many of the same things – the garden, spending time in nature, living a creative life and although I haven’t sailed for many years, a deep love for spending time on the water.
I had the pleasure of reconnecting with Nicola this year and speaking to the audience of her Gentle Business Mastermind program. We’ve been chatting over recent weeks about all sorts of things. Her and her husband’s courageous decision to live on a yacht, her art, and her latest program, Flourish: The Art of Creative Living.
It’s not often that I meet someone who is genuinely living from the heart, but Nicola really is one of those people. She has inspired me to get my paintbrushes out and to explore getting back into sailing. She took time from her busy schedule last week to respond to my interview questions and I’m so pleased she did. I think you will love her story.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your business and your lifestyle? I would love to know about what led you to be living on a yacht.
Absolutely! My husband, our Cavoodle dog and I have been living on a yacht for close to three years. Before then, Andrew was working 100+ hours a week as a quarry manager and we were barely seeing each other. I was trying to figure out a way we could change our lifestyle and, inspired by a documentary about a couple who were living on a sailboat in French Polynesia, one afternoon he came home from work covered in dust and I asked him, “How about we live on a sailboat?”
Without hesitation, he replied, “Let’s do it!”
Three months later he’d resigned from his job, we’d sold our house, art studio and all our furniture and bought a 35-foot Martzcraft sailboat in Pittwater, just north of Sydney.
What do you love most about it?
I adore being so connected to nature. We have turtles, dolphins and whales around the boat so often. I love seeing them. Our little dog Lacey-Jane loves them too. She runs around on deck ‘turtle spotting’ and often hears them before I do.
I also love the simplicity of our belongings, now that we’ve decluttered much of what we owned so we can fit it into a small space. Marie Kondo says tidying up can help you focus more on the relationships, activities and experiences you want during this current season of your life, and I have found that to be true. Having only about 15% of our original belongings, it’s easy to focus on doing more of what I love; teaching, painting, reading, writing, snorkelling, and mentoring other creative hearts.
And what are some of the challenges?
Weather is probably the biggest challenge. While we are connected to nature, we are also hugely influenced by it. We need to be flexible as we often have to change plans, pull up the anchor and move without much notice.
Sailing has also brought up a lot of my own fears. I rely on mindfulness practices when conditions trigger a sense of anxiety and meditation to help me sleep when I’ve finished my watch and we are sailing through the night.
Can you tell me about your decision to become an artist and then choosing to teach creativity to others?
I studied art at university and became a professional artist when my fist solo exhibition all but sold out! I was so surprised, it was easy to decide to quit my casual job and instead focus on my art practice. That was eighteen years ago. I exhibited in commercial and regional galleries around Australia and overseas and loved producing a new series of paintings for shows. I always drew inspiration from nature, my travels and my own inner experience.
In my late twenties, my health took a turn for the worse. I set up an organic veggie patch to support my healing, and after experiencing the joy and benefits of having a garden, I created two online courses teaching others how to grow organic food.
I enjoyed teaching and as my health improved, a dear friend asked me to teach her how to paint. We had so much fun painting together, and I saw how it helped her to process the grief she was experiencing after losing her precious mum. I realised I deeply wanted to teach others how to express their creativity, even if they didn’t think they were naturally creative.
For me, creative expression has been a doorway into the present moment. It’s led to beautiful experiences of being ‘in flow’ and a deeper connection with my own heart. I love, love, love to share that with others. My passion is to demystify the creative process and support others to be kind to themselves, follow their hearts and find meaning and fulfilment through creative living.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t have much of a typical day! Sometimes I notice myself longing for more of a routine, but very quickly I crave variety more than predictability. That being said, my day pretty much always begins with my dog walking on me, waking me up for cuddles and then her breakfast. She’s very cute how she wants cuddles before food.
After I have fed her, I make a cup of Earl Grey tea for me and brewed coffee for Andrew. Then, I love to take my tea up on deck where I check in with how I’m feeling physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally, in my much-loved journaling practice. I find this semi-regular-routine helps me to plan my work activities for the day, while also paying attention to what I need for my own wellbeing. I love it. I find it very supportive, centering and it helps me be more intentional in my days.
After journalling, anything can happen! If I have coaching calls, I’ll spend time with clients, whether they are in my year-long global creativity school, Flourish: The Art of Creative Living, or with members of the Gentle Business Mastermind, a beautiful group I co-host along with Naomi Arnold and Amanda Rootsey, or private coaching clients.
If I don’t have client calls, I might spend the day writing, creating new videos for my YouTube channel or recording podcast episodes, or painting with my new favourite medium – watercolours! Of course, there are some weeks when we focus more on sailing, and I tilt my attention away from working so many hours in the business. I love sailing. We’ve now sailed thousands of miles up and down the east coast of Australia and we are currently in the Whitsunday Islands, which is a truly beautiful part of the world.
How does your partner spend his time while you’re working? Does he have a side project too?
That’s a great question. I love that you asked, actually, as it’s not often talked about during these times of transitions while women are working online. For the first couple of years, Andrew was pretty much solely focused on keeping the boat running and taking care of trip planning/navigating. There are always things that need attention on a boat because it’s such a harsh environment with all the salt etc. So he is/was chief electrician, plumber, carpenter, rigger and mechanic. He did all the servicing on the engine, installed new plumbing, takes care of the fridge, solar power, battery installation etc.
He also went fishing sometimes when I was working, too. 😀
While he still does those things, he has also recently begun trading the Forex (foreign currency exchange). He signed up with a company who offer training in it, and he’s been working really hard at that. It takes quite a bit of time to check the charts, look for trade setups and learn new strategies. We are hoping it will be a change of career direction for him, as he doesn’t want to go back to quarries or working in such stressful environments. It’s lovely to have the time and space and financial freedom/breathing room to be able to make this adjustment and see how it goes. He’s naturally wired for this kind of work in many ways. It plays to many of his strengths and he’s enjoying it too, which is great. It would drive me bonkers, with all the detail, but as you know, we are each suited to different things and thankfully, this seems to have taken his fancy.
We were looking for a way for him to bring in income while we are on the boat, and in a way that still offers us the freedom we love, knowing he didn’t want to begin a business or be an entrepreneur. Nothing popped up until one day he just stumbled on the idea. It’s now been five months and it’s going well. I love seeing him enthusiastic about the future.
Where do you go for inspiration, creative or otherwise?
I love being around the ocean for inspiration. So that is handy! Choosing to live on a boat was largely influenced by my love of nature and the ocean in particular. I love all the marine life, sunsets, and the variety of places we get to visit. I’m currently painting a series of watercolours of the islands we are exploring.
For inspiration in my business, I love to learn from others who have a heart for supporting people to deal with life using practical tools and self-compassion. I find mindfulness and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy is hugely useful, and I Iove to infuse those approaches into how I teach creative living and creative expression. So there is no surprise why I love your work, Kate, and adore all your wonderful books.
What are you reading and listening to at the moment?
I’m currently listening to Bari Tessler Linden’s podcast The Art of Money and I am enrolled in her wonderful year-long program. I love how she blends mindfulness and self-compassion with financial literacy.
And I’m in the middle of about six different books! What can I say, I do love variety! Tonight, I have been reading Maya Angelo’s book Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes. I adore her ability to tell heart-opening stories that leave me feeling connected to others across cultures and generations.
What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to someone wanting to pursue their creative dreams?
I would encourage them to focus on cultivating a kind and loving relationship with themselves, so they can offer themselves self-compassion when the inevitable fears, self-doubts, perfectionism and resistance pop up during the journey. The very nature of following our hearts and pursuing our creative dreams means stepping into the unknown. Part of that includes moving through fears in ways that don’t traumatise us but instead allow us to expand, grow and flourish.
So many of us are left believing we are ‘just not creative’ or that we ‘don’t have time for creative expression.’ When the truth is, most of us were not taught how to craft a life that is deeply fulfilling, meaningful, vibrant and true to our hearts. Our minds often throw up lots of reasons why we can’t create or follow our dreams. When we blend mindfulness into the creative process, we can elegantly navigate the creative blocks our mind uses to try to stop us, and instead step into a life where we are engaged, alive and vibrant.
If someone feels like their life is on autopilot, if they never put themselves first, or if they are constantly searching ‘out there’ for someone to tell them what to do, give them the answers or show them the ‘correct’ way to do things, I would encourage them to slow down, tune into their heart and find the practices that support them to intentionally craft a life that is fulfilling, meaningful and true to them.
Those practices might include mindfulness or meditation, walking in nature, journaling their heart out, developing their trust in their intuition and taking small steps towards their creative dreams. I’d encourage them to surround themselves with support and do all they can to give themselves a sense of safety as they embark on their new creative adventure. Most importantly, I’d encourage them to stay in relationship with their own heart. I’ve found it’s the best compass we have for leading us home.
Nicola’s Flourish: The Art of Creative Living course opens for early bird registration from 15-31 October 2019. You can join Nicola now on her Art of Creative Living: Free 7 Day Introductory Course.