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?

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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.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Take action on your dreams

This probably seems insanely obvious. Dreams don’t just come into fruition out of nowhere.

But it wasn’t until I started journaling every day that it became clear to me there was a disconnect between my big dreams and my daily life. The act of connecting with myself each day made this absurdly obvious.

dreamsThe funny thing is, if you don’t make an effort in some way to check in with yourself, to generate awareness around your dreams and the way you are living your life, it’s easy to go months or years without realising this.

I’ve never had trouble with the dreaming side of things – that has always come naturally to me. I’m a romantic, a day dreamer, an optimist, and an ever-hopeful creative with a big heart. I’m forever dreaming up projects, plans, changes; ideal homes, days, lives.

I dream of travelling to distant lands, I dream of creating abundantly and helping others to do the same, I dream of living a sustainable life where I can live off the land and support myself. I dream of having books published, touring and inspiring thousands, leaving a mark on the world and making it a little better.

And the thing about journaling each day is that I found myself clarifying exactly what I wanted and when I wanted it. I drilled down to the bedrock of my deepest values and hopes. Suddenly, going about my ‘normal’ daily life, right after writing about the life I really longed to live, seemed absurd. Getting up to go to the same job each day to pay bills for a life I didn’t love almost became comical.

And that’s when I began to realise that unless I made conscious choices, each and every day, to take action, to step past my current life and into the life I wanted, nothing would change.

So what did I do? I started blogging and sharing my creative journey in order to connect with other creatives and develop a base from which to build an online business. I went from full-time to part-time work in order to have less stress and more mental, emotional and creative breathing room. I began the crazy process of building a tiny house with my partner. We purchased some land and moved a little further out of town so we could start to live a lifestyle more in alignment with our values.

In other words, I actually took steps to change my life. As long as I keep journaling I will maintain the awareness required to make sure my life is in alignment with my dreams.

>>> Prompt:take action

Set aside a little time when you won’t be bothered or disturbed. On an empty spread in your journal, make a giantbrainstorm (or list, or whatever method you prefer) of all the things you want. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are. You may want to visit every country in the world, or you may want to get a new piece of furniture for your home. You may want to be in better shape, or you may want to meet new people. Whatever it is, get it all out. Write until you fully run out of ideas.

Now, on another page, answer the following questions:

  • What are you doing each day to make one/some of/all of these dreams a reality?
  • What are you not doing to make them happen?
  • What is one small thing you could do today to take you one step closer to one of these dreams?

Write out this quote from Picasso and put it somewhere prominent:

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.

Try this: remember Venn diagrams from school? On a new spread in your journal, draw two big overlapping circles that take up most of the pages (see image in the link above). In one circle, write all the things you dream of for your life and yourself. In the other circle, write about the way your life actually looks/is. In the overlap between the two circles, identify areas where you are already taking steps towards, or actually living the life you want.

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.

Creativity

Creativity: Why I’m going it alone

If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you will have noticed the changes around here.

It started out as just me, a blogging newbie and journaling enthusiast, then Kelly came on board, and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed that it’s back to little old me – still a journaling enthusiast, but with a little more blogging experience under my belt.

So what’s been going on? Why all the changes?

It’s been about a year since I first waded into the world of creativity in earnest. It started with an innocent journaling course, then I found myself falling headfirst in love with everything to do with journaling, art journaling and any and all aspects of creativity.

I found that these things perfectly complemented my training in life coaching, psychology and teaching.

I’d always wanted to blog, and had attempted it several times, but this time it stuck. Why?

Because I finally found a topic I’m so in love with that
I just all you need is love and journalingcan’t help but talk to everyone about it.

My bestie Kelly was also in love with the same things, and she also wrote a blog, so we started to plan ways we could share our passion. It made sense to write a blog together, to create a community online around the things we both love.

So she came on board here with me. We both started blogging about the things we loved: creativity, self-love, self-care and journaling.

But things started to change, for both of us. Instead of being inspired by each other, we started to feel stuck. We couldn’t figure out why, so we just kept going.

I started wondering where the magic had gone.

What happened to that feeling of wanting to share any and everything I love about journaling and creativity? Why was I suddenly feeling uninspired and stuck?

It turns out, our creative dreams can be a very personal thing.

Despite the fact that we both loved journaling and blogging, what we didn’t love was sharing one online space together. We felt as though we were cramping each other’s style – unknowingly, and unintentionally, putting creative limits on one another.

I missed the freedom to just be myself, to follow my own creative whims and share my strange imperfections.

I realized that if I am to evolve creatively and truly follow my own deeply personal creative path, I need to go it alone.

This can be scary, and there was something so reassuring about having Kel right by my side. She was there to bounce ideas off, to brainstorm with, to laugh over endless cups of tea as we dreamed big creative dreams together.

Since we’ve gone our separate creative ways, I really miss those moments.

I believeBut even more rewarding is the sense of building something all by myself: fueling my own creative fire and lighting my own path.

I think we certainly need others out on the creative path – people to reassure us when times are tough, to tell us that they too struggle, to share ideas and inspiration, to cheer us on when we doubt ourselves.

Ultimately though, I think creativity is a solo expedition: an excavation of our own inner selves – our fears, our dreams, our lives.

While support from others is certainly valuable and I would say even necessary, ultimately it’s up to you to venture within.

So, Journal Wild is back to just me. What started as Journaling Dangerously, an experiment in journaling more often, has become Journal Wild, a full-blown commitment to a creatively nourishing life.

I’ve got my inner creative fire to light the path ahead and I’m going it alone.

Creativity

Journal prompt: Goodbye 2014, hello new year!

I love this time of year. It always feels like a chance to reflect on the year that’s been and get excited about the year to come.

It feels like a fresh start, a clean slate, a do-over. It feels full of possibility.

But the only real way to get the most out of a new year is to make peace with the year that’s been, then set some clear intentions for the year ahead. If you don’t let go of what’s been, you may drag it into the new year with you.

i am so blessed

I cherish this time of year as a chance to spend extra time with my journal; reflecting, dreaming and planning.

For me, this has been a tremendous year, personally. I’ve started a blog and welcomed my soul sister Kelly on board, I’ve created a regular journaling and creative practice that lights me up, I’ve gotten engaged to the man of my dreams and he and I have begun a journey to build our own little house. I couldn’t be happier with these things.

Professionally, this year has been challenging for me. I’ve been working full-time in a teaching job that I find stressful and, at times, overwhelming. While it certainly has its rewarding and enjoyable moments, as a highly-sensitive person and introvert, it is harder for me than many. Perhaps not the ideal career choice, I now realise after getting to know myself a bit better through my journal. Nonetheless, I made it through the year in one piece.

Our school years run from the start to end of the calendar year in New Zealand, so I am currently in between jobs, deciding upon my next move for next year. Instead of being fearful about this, I’m excited for what could be ahead.

So now, I’m going to take out my journal and explore the year that’s been and the possibilities that lie ahead of me.

>>> Prompt:

Take a fresh page in your journal and create a heading: Goodbye 2014, welcome new year! (Or whatever floats your boat).

Begin by answering some of these questions, and if something stands out to you, go as deep as you like:

  • How would you describe 2014 in one sentence?
  • If you could redo 2014, what would you do differently? Why?
  • List three things that went well for you this year.
  • List three things that did not go well for you this year.
  • What was the absolute highlight of 2014?
  • What was your lowest point?
  • If 2014 was a book, what would be the title? Come up with a few chapter names.
  • Draw a timeline of the year from start to finish with all of your achievements and greatest joys.
  • What was the predominant feeling for you in 2014?

Now, think about the year ahead:

hello 2015

  • If you were writing this at the end of 2015, how would you ideally like to be able to describe the year in one sentence?
  • If 2015 could be a book, what would you like it to be titled? Come up with a few possible chapter names.
  • What do you hope to achieve/do/complete/have happen next year?
  • What will you absolutely make happen, without a doubt?
  • How would you most like to predominantly feel, next year?
  • Create an art journal page or collage that best represents how you would like 2015 to be.
  • Choose one word to guide you through the next 12 months. The word I have chosen for 2015 is focus. Kelly’s word is joy. Choose whatever word most sings to you. If you’re a bit stumped, visit Susannah Conway for guidance on this. Once you’ve chosen your word, write it in big bold letters and put it somewhere you will see it every day.

Most importantly, be kind and gentle with yourself while you go through this process. If this hasn’t been the best year for you, try your best to acknowledge that and then look forward to the new year. It’s a new beginning for us all.

What Inspires Me

Weekly inspiration

Each week I share a series of the blogs/posts that have most inspired me. Feel free to share anything that has inspired you in the comments below!

 

Artist Nichole Rae has finally released her art journaling book. Yay! I am so excited about this and can’t wait for my copy to arrive.

Leonie tells us why burnout is normal and how to manage it. I love this woman’s approach to life and business. An inspiration!

After discussing how I define success, I was very interested to read Barry’s definition of success.

I recently missed a day of blogging in my 100 days, and I can SO totally relate to this post about starting and stopping and starting again!

I can’t get enough of my Neat and Tangled stamps that I bought from Butterfly Reflections Ink! I use them to add images and colour to my journal pages. Vanessa at Butterfly Reflections Ink is so lovely, totally recommend her store!

Creativity

25 Days into the 100 Day Project: A reflection

Today is the 25th day of the 100 Days Project. I’m a quarter of the way through the project, and I want to reflect on how it’s going.

It’s hard.

I know I’m probably not supposed to say that, but in the interest of being authentic and vulnerable, I should be honest.

I’m actually really enjoying the challenge of coming up with new topics and things to post. I’m enjoying the daily journaling and creativity, the daily commitment. I’m enjoying getting comments and support from readers and other bloggers – that has been such a huge pleasure.

This is the first time I have blogged this consistently.

It keeps me focused on what matters in my life: creativity and sharing my creativity with others.

But some days I am tired. I work as a teacher which requires a great deal of energy. It is especially difficult at the moment because I have moved to a new school which is further away – so I have to get up extra early if I want to journal before work. That is fine, but then it means that I have little energy in the evenings to blog, or do any other creative work, such as my art journal, or poetry.

Oh, and my best friend and I are planning our own online business, which takes a lot of time and energy too! But it’s the good kind.

heart close upSo what does this mean for my blogging? Nothing much. I’ve thought about stopping the 100 Days Project but in truth I don’t want to. I enjoy the challenge. I like being committed to something. I like having to share my thoughts and my creative practice regularly. I think if you want to achieve something creative, particularly writing or art, doing it every day is important.

Can I keep going for another 75 days? I don’t see why not. When I read about amazing inspiring people like Lisa Sonora’s 1008 paintings project I am just blown away. It makes me laugh about my 25 days of blogging.

Lisa says throughout the course of the project she dealt with questions such as:

‘How do we stay on track with a big goal?
How do we start again when we’ve gotten sidelined?
What supports constructive action and creating? And what undermines?’

These are things I should explore in my own journal. If I’m feeling like I want to give up, why is that?

why I want to blog

Susannah Conway has said that every week she worries she has run out of good blogging material. Anne Lamott says that she often worries she has run out of ideas. So I guess the mild panic I feel each day about what to blog about is only normal.

I like the fact that it keeps me on my toes. The discomfort and challenge of blogging every day is good for me as a writer and artist. It keeps me pushing forward towards a goal, even when it feels a little uncomfortable.

So, on that note, here’s to 75 more days of getting outside my comfort zone!