Creativity

Journal prompts: Travel

As much as I love being at home, I can’t get enough of the world.

Travel ignites a fire inside me that burns for years after a trip. There’s something about being somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere I’ve only visited in my dreams that just feels magical. It feels like I’m in a dream, only it’s real.

When I first stepped out onto the travel lessonstreets of Manhattan, or had my first bite of real French pastry, or walked through the falling snow in Chicago, or got lost in the winding alleyways of Venice, or stood underneath Michelangelo’s David in Florence… those are moments I will never forget. Those are moments I changed, because those are moments I felt my dreams come to life.

There’s something about being out in the world – and let me remind you, I’m from New Zealand which is pretty tucked away from everyone else – that makes me feel like I’m participating in life. I feel like I’m part of it all, on the world’s stage.

And not only that; seeing things I have long seen on television, in books, in films, online, well that just makes it all the more magical. To stand in Times Square, in Westminster Abbey, under the Burj Khalifa or in the middle of Yosemite reminds me of my place in the world. I’m reminded of all the people who came before and who will come after. I’m reminded that we are part of one whole, one global family – that I am never really alone.

You meet the most fascinating people when you travel – people who live in the area, other tourists, or people who literally live down the road from you back home who you just happen to run into in a hostel in Florence… We are all, in some way, connected. There’s nothing quite like running into another Kiwi in the middle of a foreign country.

imageI love the history – I’m in love with art history, and just history in general, and I soak up all the stories of people who came before, how they lived, what they valued. For me, the world is like a giant classroom. I can’t get enough.

And as a creative, someone who always has stories burning inside them, I find that travel is the ultimate fuel for the creative fire. I come home bursting with ideas, full of new material. It’s like every time I travel I connect with another part of myself, fill the well a little more. It inspires me in ways that nothing else can.

To be able to step out of a humid New Zealand summer and land, a day later, in the blistering cold of New York winter, well that is the stuff of fairy tales if you ask me. Travel is magic.

And then, when I’m full up with the sights and sounds of another country, when I’ve attempted the language and my memory cards are full of photos, when I’ve filled my suitcase to the brim with gorgeous leather goods from Italy and every other possible souvenir, when I’m happy and exhausted – going home is the most wonderful feeling. I find a new appreciation for my bed, my shower, and every little detail of my home. I fall back in love with where I live.

I don’t travel as often as I’d like. In imagemy ideal future life – the one where I’m running creative workshops and retreats all over the world – I’ll be going on major international trips every year. At the moment, my last trip (to Europe and North America) was two and a half years ago, which feels like a lifetime. My goal is to go on another big trip next year. In the mean time, I’m using journaling as a way to travel within. It’s not quite the same, but it’s the next best thing.

The other thing I like to do is to do local travelling – visiting new places nearby. It can be as simple as exploring the next town over, or even driving for a few hours to somewhere new. Travel doesn’t have to be a major overseas adventure. I think just getting some new scenery can be enough to get inspired, even if it’s not far from home. Don’t discount the benefits of travelling somewhere locally if you can’t afford a big trip.

>>> Prompt:

How do you feel about travel? I know some people who could do it forever, and others who haven’t left the country and couldn’t care less. What does it mean to you?

Describe a memorable trip you have taken, in as much detail as possible.

Describe your ideal trip, in as much detail as possible.

Now consider, why haven’t you taken it yet? No time? No money? No one to watch the kids? These are all obstacles that can be overcome. You might find that you consider travel to be an indulgence or a luxury that isn’t a priority. Explore your beliefs around travel, and make a plan to make your dream trip a reality, even if it isn’t for five years.

Make a list of every place you want to visit.

Bonus fun prompt: create a travel vision board to inspire you for your next trip – even if you’re not sure how you will make it happen. Gather up travel brochures and images and place it somewhere you will see it often. Trust that it will come about, in the right time.

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

Journal prompts: Creativity and wellbeing

This post is featured as part of the Journal Chat Live Open House, hosted by Dawn Herring

I have had issues with depression for most of my life.

I’ve tried many different things to deal with this – counselling/psychotherapy, herbal supplements, exercise, medication, changing jobs/houses/partners etc.

However, last year when I began to consistently tap into my creative energy and express myself creatively on a regular basis, I noticed that the feelings of depression that tend to surface quite frequently with me didn’t visit so often.

In fact, if I keep tapping into mcreativity is essential for wellbeingy creativity on a daily basis, as well as doing a few others key things (exercise, rest, play, connecting with loved ones, eating well, etc), I tend to feel pretty damn good most of the time.

With all that other stuff I’m doing, how do I know it’s creativity that’s brought about this change? Because I tried all the other things before, and they didn’t work. At least, not without adding creative self-expression into the mix.

I’ve always been a creative person at heart – drawing, singing, writing since I was little, but once I hit adulthood most of that stuff sort of got forgotten about as I got ‘serious’ about life. Funnily enough, I have also spent a good portion of my adulthood dealing with depression.

I’m not suggesting that creativity is a cure-all for mental illness. But for me, personally, I have found creative self-exression to be essential to my mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. I can’t imagine my life without it now.

From my journal:

Ever since I’ve been exploring my creative side I’m a totally different person. I’m happier and more fulfilled. I feel like I know myself, what makes me happy. I feel a greater connection to the divine, to my own inner resources of strength, courage, wisdom and faith. I know that through developing a creative practice, I have a routine that supports me in daily life.

Creativity comes in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be artistic, it can be anything – cooking, building, the way you organise your furniture, or dress.

I believe that everyone is really a creative person at heart, and those that don’t think they are creative simply haven’t found the kind of creative expression that works for them yet.

>>> Prompt:

What does the word ‘creativity’ mean to you?

In what ways would you consider yourself to be creative?

In what ways would you like to be more creative?

What does creativity bring to your life? Why is it worth making time to be creative?

What are the obstacles to creativity in your life? They might be time, the opinions of others, resistance, fear, money, etc. What could you do to overcome these obstacles?

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

5 ways to fill your creative well

 

I love to create.

The past two years I have been through a period of intense creativity and inspiration. It has been an amazing journey into the creative unknown, and a feeling of coming home to myself. I’m finally feeling like I’ve found my true creative center.

But right now, after a hard year of work and creative exploration, I’m feeling a little spent. I go to sit down with my art journal and paints, and feel aimless. I try to write a blog post, and feel stuck. I’m even feeling disinterested in picking up my written journal, which is strange because I’ve been writing most days since early this year.

At first, I panicked. All the lovely inspiration and excitement about my creativity was gone! I worried it was a phase, a one-off, a part of my history.

Now, I’m feeling pulled to do things like watch TV shows, read, sleep or browse aimlessly online. I’m trying to want to create, but am finding myself wanting to rest and zone out instead.

Why? Because my creative well is empty. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says,

In order to create, we draw from our inner well… we must learn to be self-nourishing… to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them.

I’ve spent the whole year creating – both at home for myself and at work for others. I’m drained.

This is reassuring in this time of creative down-time.

I’m not out of creativity – I just need to refill my creative well.

I think this is something we all need, in order to keep creating. Creativity requires an outpouring of energy from us, so we must refill that in some way.

Cameron goes on to say,

The artist brain is the sensory brain: sight and sound, smell and taste, touch. These are the elements of magic, and magic is the elemental stuff of art. In filling the well, think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty. Do not think what you should do… Do what intrigues you, explore what interests you.

This is going to look different for everyone. What inspires and excites one person will possibly bore someone else senseless.

So, in order to refill the creative well, we need to engage our senses. While this can include just bringing presence and awareness to more everyday tasks, I’m looking for something to shake up my routine and reignite the inspiration I was feeling earlier this year.

1. Visit somewhere new

This could be simply going to a new cafe or bookstore that you’ve not yet explored, or it could be taking a drive to a different part of town, or it could be taking some time to go to a new city or country. It doesn’t have to be huge, just go somewhere you’ve not been before, and pay attention to what’s around you. Take your journal and note down what you can see, smell, taste, hear and feel.

2. Rest

This might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but it might be that you are simply tired or burnt-out after a period of creativity or work, and you just need to get your body (and spirit) back into balance. Creativity requires an expenditure of energy and this can be too demanding if we are already feeling run-down. Take some guilt-free time to nap, sleep late, curl up on the couch with a movie, lie in the sun and just be still. After a while you will be itching to get back into it!

3. Go somewhere you find inspiring

This could be an art gallery, your local library, a favourite restaurant, a scenic lookout with a fantastic view, a favourite hiking spot, a secluded beach, a music store, an art store… whatever it is that reminds you about the creative possibilities for your life. Take your journal and freewrite about the feelings of inspiration that arise.

4. Do something new

Listen to music you’ve not listened to before, try a new food or recipe, read a book by a new author, watch a film that is a different genre to your usual favourites, meet new people in a class or meetup group, learn a new skill like dancing, knitting, guitar, or even just rearrange the furniture in your house. Surprise and delight your senses by doing something unexpected. Make a list in your journal of things you’ve always wanted to try and do one of them.

5. Get rid of stuff

It’s easy to slowly accumulate things: clothes we don’t wear, art supplies we don’t use, books we don’t read, sports gear and fitness equipment that started with the best intentions… after a while this can feel overwhelming. The physical space this excess stuff fills also spills over into our creative space. You need to make room, both physically and spiritually, for inspiration to flourish and your creativity to bloom. In your journal make a list of  5 things you could get rid of every day for the next 30 days, either big or small. Sell them or donate them to charity – either way, you will start to notice a space opening up as you make room for your creativity and inspiration.

*  *  *

Regardless of what you do, Cameron notes that paying attention is most important: put your phone away, your laptop away, take your headphones out of your ears, stop worrying and be present.

In your journal, note down which of the above ideas appeals most to you. It could be helpful to write your own list of ways to fill your creative well when you are feeling drained, so that you can easily turn to it to find inspiration again.

How do you fill your creative well? Share in the comments below.

Creativity

Journal prompt: Balance your creative energy

I’m feeling quite drained at the moment. Work is very busy and when I do have free time I’m trying to fit in my journaling – both written and art journaling.

I’ve been listening to an audio book in my car on the way to work which is fascinating: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. The book gives quite specific details of the daily working/creative rituals of artists, writers, musicians, philosophers and other creatives from all different time periods.

One thing that has stood out to me is how often each of these daily rituals include some form of investment in creative energy.

lovely-list

What I mean is this: when we spend a lot of time working, or creating, or socialising, we are effectively spending our creative energy. These are activities whereby we produce and our energy flows outwards.

If we do too much of these activities, particularly if we are introverted, we can end up feeling a bit drained.

Our society puts a lot of emphasis on being productive and expending energy, but we need to make sure that we are taking the time to renew that creative energy too.

I think it’s really important to balance this with doing restful and rejuvenating things whereby we ‘refill’ our creative energy tanks. These are things where we receive something, rather than produce something. I guess it’s like receiving inspiration, in a way. It’s like a sort of investment in our creative bank account, so that we then have enough to ‘spend’ later.

For me, things where I consider myself to be spending my creative energies are:

  • Working
  • Writing
  • Socialising with groups of people
  • Blogging
  • Art journaling (certain kinds)
  • Doing housework
  • Doing things for others (most of my day job is about this)

So I need to remember to balance this with activities that refill my creative tanks and renew my creative energy:

  • Reading
  • Listening to inspiring/relaxing music
  • Listening to audio books
  • Listening to guided meditations
  • Journaling (although I technically ‘produce’ something when journaling, the act of deliberately thinking, writing and reflecting fills me up more than it drains me)
  • Napping/sleeping
  • Sitting with a cup of tea/coffee in the morning sun, being still and taking my time
  • Long walks
  • Spending time with people who get me and inspire me – usually having long and interesting talks
  • Cuddles with my partner or puppy
  • Yoga
  • Watching an interesting documentary or inspiring movie

I’m not suggesting that one list is better or more important than the other. To me, it’s about balance. We need to spend our creative energies, but of course we also need to invest in them.

>>> Prompts:

Take a fresh page in your journal. Create two headings:

  • How I spend my creative energy
  • How I renew my creative energy

List all the things you can think of under each heading. Your lists may look similar to mine or they may be very different. It all comes down to what works for you.

If you’re not sure which heading to put something under, consider this: does the activity leave you feeling more tired/drained or rejuvenated/refreshed afterwards?

Now, think about whether or not your life has a good balance between the two lists. If not, consider how you can bring in more of the other to create more balance for your creative energy.