Creativity

Join me in a year of journaling dangerously!

At the beginning of last year I was not in a good place. I was unhappy with my life and felt like something was really missing, although I couldn’t put my finger on what it was at the time.

On a whim, I enrolled in a journaling course. A friend of mine was doing it too, and we both fell in love with everything journaling.

After the course I continued to journal every day, and found my life turning around in unexpected ways. I no longer felt on the verge of tears for no reason every day. Instead, I wrote and poured my heart out on the page. I tuned into my own source of inner guidance and found out what my soul was really calling out for.

I tapped into a wellspring of creativity within that I didn’t even know existed. I kept up my daily journal writing, and began to blog, paint, collage, carve stamps… and my creativity blossomed. I felt constantly inspired to create, and I found courage inside me to try new things and share them with others.

For about a year after taking the journaling course that started it all, I was riding the inspiration high. Sure, I still had dark days and moments where I just wanted to crawl back into bed – but most days I turned to my journal for comfort and inspiration.

Notice there that I say ‘most days’. It’s easy when things start to feel good to let habits slide. It’s easy to relax into the things that bring pleasure without challenging yourself to move forward. And that is what happened to me: over a year later and my lovely daily journaling habit has slipped away. I check in with my journal a few days a week, but the joy and inspiration is short-lived, and fades quickly.

I know that the best way to tap into inspiration and courage is through my journal. And I know that these things come through a regular creative practice.

That’s why I’m launching my new project: a year of journaling dangerously!

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Simply put, I’m going to journal in some form every day for a whole year and I invite you to join me.

Some of you may remember that Journal Wild started out as Journaling Dangerously. Even though the blog has gone through some changes, the idea of journaling dangerously has never left me.

I see it as committing to showing up to the page every single day, even if all I do that day is write the date or swipe some paint on the paper. It is the act of showing up that makes it worthwhile.

So I send out an open invitation for anyone who wants to join me: all you have to do is show up to the page in whatever way you want, every day for a year.

Creativity

Practice makes imperfect

If you’ve read anything else on this blog, you will likely know that I have a bit of an issue with perfectionism – I struggle when things are imperfect.

Actually, I think a lot of people do. I think it’s symptomatic of an age of airbrushing and increasingly ridiculous expectations.

Nowhere is my need for perfection more apparent than in my creative work – my creative journaling, my painting, my writing.

Visual journaling is a real challenge for me because it’s supposed to be about letting go, playing, exploring and expressing yourself. It makes sense that the outcome of this process is not always pretty. In fact, I feel like visual or creative journaling is more about the process than the outcome – just like regular written journaling.

I don’t sit down to write a journal entry so I have a pretty page of words, I write because it helps me to process things and is healing. Visual journaling should be the same.

It’s been a real conscious process for me with my perfectionism in my art. I have to regularly remind myself that it doesn’t have to be perfect, that it’s ok to make a mess and not know where it is going. It is a very uncomfortable feeling, playing with my paints and not knowing how it will turn out. I have to deliberately sit with that uncomfortable feeling.

But I’ve discovered that the best way to get past this is practice. And I don’t mean practice so that I get better artistically, I mean practice being ok with not being perfect. Practice being in that state of discomfort. Practice being imperfect.

The more I can work in my journal and actively continue despite feeling uncomfortable and even fearful of what will happen, the more I start to become desensitized to that feeling. The less power it has over me. The more I can create freely.

Someone once told me that discomfort is a sign that we are challenging ourselves, that we are growing.

So the feeling of discomfort, as unpleasant as it may be, is actually a sign that we are doing something good for us. I like this. It means that when I sit down to work in my creative journal and I feel uncomfortable with not knowing how it will turn out, with making mistakes, that I’m actually growing.

Maybe one day there will even come a time when I can play without fear of what will happen. Maybe, with practice.

Creativity

Three reasons to create before you consume

Lately, I’ve kind of gotten into some bad habits. Instead of waking up a little earlier and writing in my journal first thing or taking some time to create, I’m sleeping late and sometimes I skip the journaling altogether.

Why?

Usually I’m a little groggy, and feel like having breakfast, so I tell myself that I’ll just read a chapter of my book (finally got around to reading Wild, which was awesome) or watch an episode of my favourite TV show (currently watching Parks and Rec or Community) or browse Pinterest (I’m new to this and totally addicted) before I pick up my journal.

But then a funny thing happens. One chapter turns into four, then I have to get ready for work. One episode becomes three and I find myself running late. I fall down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest or Instagram and realise half an hour has passed. By the time I pause in whatever I’m doing to consider getting out my journal, I don’t ‘feel’ like journaling and I don’t want to create anymore – if I even have the time.

I used to wake up every morning, grab a cup of coffee and my journal, and spend a blissful hour just writing, thinking, dreaming, creating, and being with myself. Now, I can sometimes go days between journal entries.

The problem, I’ve come to realise, is that I am choosing to consume instead of create, and that’s making it harder and harder to write each morning. Where I once had a daily connection with my own inner wisdom and an endless source of creative ideas and inspiration of my own, I have now created a habit of consuming the ideas of others first. I’ve lost the sound of my own creative voice among the voices of other people.

1. Your ideas are your own

While it’s certainly ok to be influenced and inspired by the work of others, and even ok to steal ideas from others, what’s more important is realising what your own ideas are and expressing them.

If you consume something before you create, there’s no way of knowing if what you are creating is really your own work, or just a reproduction of someone else’s work.

Stealing ideas from others is part of the process of being a creative, but there’s a difference between replicating the work of others, and being inspired by them as you find your own style and voice. Without taking time to just purely create, finding your own voice can be almost impossible.

When I spend half of my morning on Pinterest and Instagram, I soak up all the images and ideas presented to me by others. Sometimes this can spark an idea of my own, but often I find it difficult to come up with my own ideas after absorbing everyone else’s.

Try tapping into your own inner resources and creativity, before consuming the images and ideas of someone else. You can always take inspiration from others later.

2. Make sure you actually do it

It’s too easy to consume. When my morning alarm goes off on my cell phone and I reach to switch it off, Pinterest and Instagram are right there. Sometimes I convince myself that a quick look will help to wake me up. Before I’ve even gotten out of bed, I can spend 30 minutes online. Usually by this point I either run out of time, or find I just don’t want to journal.

The same thing happens when I open my book (or turn on my Kindle), or watch an episode of Parks and Rec. Both of these things leave me wanting more, and it’s all too easy to start the next chapter or watch the next episode. I often find myself running out of time in the morning because I’ve spent my first hour consuming these. I’m not saying reading is bad (I’m not insane) but as someone who used to have a million things to say in the morning, I’m finding that reading first thing is interfering with that. I’m much better reading before bed.

3. Avoid comparisons

I love Pinterest. I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to get on board the Pinterest train. I was quick to jump on Instagram when I started blogging last year, but resisted Pinterest for the better part of a year. As a very visual person, Instagram and Pinterest suit me very well (I’m not a Twitter fan).

But this comes with a problem, especially when I find myself indulging in a little pre-journaling pinning.

I don’t mean for it to happen but it invariably does: I start to compare my work to the work of others.

I see delicately painted journal pages, I see stacks of handmade journals with gorgeous vintage papers and hand-sewn bindings, and look over at my own boring Moleskine journal in dismay. I start to get a serious case of journal envy and before long have absolutely no interest in picking up my pen.

Creative comparison is really a whole other issue for another post, but I can say this: the more you consume the work of others before doing your own, the more you will open yourself up to making comparisons and feeling like your own work isn’t good enough. Create first, consume later.

* * *

I know we all need time to relax or fill the creative well by consuming the ideas and products of other people. There is nothing quite like sinking into a great book, or catching up on an episode of your favourite TV show. I know that I wouldn’t be half as inspired, or have made the most amazing connections with others, if I hadn’t been reading the blogs of others, and participating in Instagram and Pinterest.

Ultimately, it’s important to find a balance between creating and consuming, and consuming in sure a way that it doesn’t interfere with your own creative genius. For me, that means journaling first thing in the morning.

How do you make creating a priority in your life?

Creativity

The problem with creative shoulds

Completing the 30 Life Lessons last month was full-on. It took a lot out of me, and while I didn’t plan on taking the following month off from blogging, I found myself delighted to have some time free just for me again.

I dove headfirst into multiple creative projects. So many that I started to get overwhelmed and disoriented. Before long, my free time started to feel a little crowded.

During July, I was involved in or contemplating these projects:

Not to mention I’ve been doing my own written journaling, thinking about the blog and newsletter, brainstorming ideas for creating my own online courses, thinking about making a bucket list journal, and mulling over novel ideas. Oh yes, and working and building a house too.

This is not the first time this has happened to me.

In an attempt to combat this next stepsoverwhelm, I made a list of all the things on my creative radar. I divided this list up into three categories:

  • Groups/courses
  • Blog
  • Personal

This way I could clearly make sense of all the directions I was feeling pulled.

Then I prioritised each item on the list in terms of what was urgent (for example, a live course that was running now only, or a membership that was about to expire) and what could wait.

Great, I thought. Now I know what to focus on and what to put aside for later.

I had created a sense of creative direction for myself. It was foolproof. If only I could have ignored the fact that the priorities I had selected were of no interest to me at that time, then it would have been perfect.

It was my own fault, really. I took a totally left-brain, logical, rational approach to an entirely creative and intuitive problem.

You see, the issue wasn’t that I had too much going on. The issue was that I felt like I should be doing something else, rather than listening to my creative intuition.

I felt like I should be making the most of a course I had signed up for.

I felt like I should be finishing off a set of prompts I had already begun.

I felt like I should complete one journal before beginning another.

I felt like I should try to get the most out of a course before it was over.

I felt like I should finish one course before doing another.

If I had just stopped to ask myself, inner compasswhat do I really really want to do? then I would have had my answer: paint. I want to paint, in journals. I want to fill journals with paint.

I see creativity like this: it is all over the place. Some days I want to write in my journal for hours, others I want to carve stamps. Some days I want to watch YouTube videos of my favourite painters at work, others I want to read about journal writing. Some days I want to play with paper and glue, others I want to write. Some days I want to do a bunch of prompts from a course, others I want to play with watercolours.

Each and every creative activity nourishes us as we need it to, when we need it to. The act of listening to our creative intuition in each moment allows us to do what is most important to us in that moment.

I have learnt that sometimes I am incredibly focused on one thing to the point of obsession. But it is these short bursts of creative focus that allow me to get things done.

Other times, I am a creative butterfly, hopping from one project to the next, not really finishing much but loving the variety.

Accepting this and allowing myself to follow my creative intuition has been incredibly freeing. Trusting that I will find the focus I need when I need it, I can enjoy the pull to new things for now.

The problem only really comes about when we insist that things be done a certain way – when we let our shoulds interfere.

I invite you to consider the following prompts in your journal:

What are your creative shoulds?

How do they limit you?

How can you give yourself more creative freedom?

What would happen if you followed your creative intuition and released the shoulds?

How can you put more trust in your creative process?

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: What lights you up?

We all get bogged down by the necessities of daily life – working to pay the bills and put food on the table, sitting in traffic, arguing with others, catching up on sleep, and trying to find time to exercise, and so on.

But what about finding time for the things that you really love?

If you’re exceptionally lucky, then you are one of few the people who manages to make a living doing what you love – you get to do it every day. But I would guess that most of us don’t fall into that category.

So it comes down to making time whenever possible (every day?) to do the things we love – be it knitting, meditation, learning a language, painting, hiking – whatever.

Sometimes, though, after doing all the necessary tasks of the day, we just don’t have the time/energy/resources to do these wonderful things.

I lived this way for years. I had an lesson 15interest in writing, in being creative in some form, and sharing that creativity with others. But I got so bogged down with working full time (or more, if you consider teachers also work on their weekends and evenings) and so exhausted that I could do little other than work. Sure, teachers get regular ‘holidays’, but after working non-stop for ten weeks, all I could do was sleep and try to rest (when I wasn’t marking piles of essays).

Perhaps it’s my own fault for going into teaching. I guess it doesn’t matter what I was doing, all that matters is that I wasn’t exploring the things I loved, the things I felt most pulled to.

I carried on this way for years. Slowly I became more negative, more depressed, more bitter and more cynical about life. I was disillusioned and felt that growing up sucked, basically. I felt like there was no joy in my life, nothing I was doing just for me.

Since taking Susannah Conway’s Journal Your Life course where we were encouraged to journal every day, I started to learn about what was missing from my life. I got back in touch with myself and reconnected with the parts of me that had been ignored. Mostly, that was my creativity.

But then I hit another road block: fear and resistance. It became abundantly clear through my daily journaling what I wanted to do – to write, to paint, to create, to share my work. I got back in touch with these desires, but for a while didn’t do much with them.

Why? Because I was afraid. I didn’t really believe I could start a blog, that was terrifying. And painting? I had no formal training, who was I to attempt painting, let alone share it with others?

It took a lot of hard work, mostly by working through it in my journal, but I found a way to feel the fear and create anyway. I found a way to admit what I really wanted and start taking steps towards it. I reasoned that the fear of taking these creative risks could be no worse than the terrible feelings of ignoring these desires.

Now my life looks a lot different. I have a regular daily creative practice that ensures I remain creatively fulfilled, and a regular journaling practice that means I know when I start to feel like something is missing from my life.

>>> Prompts:

What lights you up? List or brainstorm everything that absolutely makes your heart sing with joy. Are there some things you are afraid to write down? Why?

How often do you do the things on your list? Are there some that you don’t allow yourself to think of, or that you actively avoid? Why?

How can you make more time for the things on your list?

Fun bonus prompt: If you won the lottery and never had to work again, how would you ideally like to spend your days? Describe what a day would look like (after you did all the fun stuff, like shopping, travelling etc – what would your daily life look like?)

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

What Inspires Me

Weekly inspiration

Each week I share the posts and blogs I have found most inspiring. I hope you find them inspiring too.

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Loved this post about the ‘selfie vulnerability hangover’

As I’m heading away for a couple of days and can only take a few of my favourite supplies, it’s good to see that it doesn’t take much to create an interesting art journal spread

30 Days of Collage sounds delicious!

I absolutely devoured this post that lets us peek inside Akiyo’s journals!

I bought a cheap set of beautiful playing cards and can’t wait to do this

Have an inspired week!

Creativity

Art journal… Friday

Each week I share a page from my art journal. I love to peek into the art journals of others, and hope to inspire someone else by sharing my own work.

I’m am so bad at getting these posted on Wednesdays! It’s now Friday afternoon here in NZ… Perhaps I may change it to something called Art Journaling Weekly.

In the meantime, here is this week’s page!

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 Have a play-filled weekend!

Creativity

The importance of not creating

 

Lately I’ve been in a creative funk.

I’m not sure why.

People have suggested the full blood moon and lunar eclipse has brought some strange energy.

Whatever it is, I’ve been feeling extremely tired and sleeping a lot more than usual. And I already sleep a lot as it is.

This has left little time or energy for me to create or feel inspired. I’ve found myself wanting to watch TV shows, movies, read, but mostly just sleep.

Usually I find a way to get some creating into each day even if I feel tired – it might be simply just writing in my journal and playing with some stamps, or scraping a bit on paint across a page.

I always feel better for creating.

But these past few days I haven’t been able to bring myself to do that. I haven’t blogged – I missed my usual artjournal Wednesday post – and I haven’t done any painting, collage or anything else. I haven’t even really written in my journal all that much (which means I have some catching up to do for NaJoWriMo!).

Initially I felt guilty. I felt bad for stepping away from the things that I have made a commitment to because they bring me so much joy. But then I realised that, just like times of intense creativity and productivity, there also will be times where I don’t want to create at all, where I have nothing in me to give.

And that’s ok.

It’s a cyclical thing, this creative energy. It comes and goes, waxes and wanes.

So I’ve learnt to listen to my body, to sleep as much as I need, and know that my creative energy will come back around. Because the thing about the cycle is that I can enjoy this period of rest, knowing that some more productivity will soon be on its way.

I remind myself that while it’s important for me to create, it’s equally important for me to not create at times too.

It’s tough but it comes down to making peace with the process, accepting things as they are and having faith that this won’t last.

How do you deal with your creative down times?

What Inspires Me

Weekly inspiration

Each week I share the blog posts and links I’ve found most inspiring. Feel free to share anything that has inspired you this week in the comments below.

soul orientedApril is National Journal Writing Month. I’m thinking of doing the NaJoWriMo 15,000 word challenge – writing 500 words a day for 30 days. Why should you do NaJoWriMo?

Have you signed up for Connie’s free 10 day art journaling series?

This Art of Journaling interview with Stacy is so inspiring!

Jessica has some great tips about making the most of your creative practice (find all 5 on her blog)

I just adored this peek into Gert’s journal at Seaweed Kisses!

Have an inspired week!