Self Empowerment

Join me for a simple, free, nourishing practice in December

There’s something about this time of year that makes me excited about the new year to come – new possibilities, new opportunities – a fresh start.

This time last year I noticed how much I wanted to rush forward into the new year, even with a whole month of 2016 remaining. In fact, I always feel this way at this time of year! And it’s not just me: I think a lot of us are tempted to rush through December and get to the new year.

So last year I asked: what if we slowed down and really savoured December? Rather than crashing into the new year and attempting to start fresh then, we can step gracefully into the new year with a nourishing daily routine already in place. We don’t have to wait until January to start feeling good – let’s do it now.

This led to a simple project called Deliberate December – where you are intentional with your time each day. Initially it was around starting (or ending) the day with intention, but this year I’ve expanded it a bit.

The idea for this round of Deliberate December is to take some time each day – any time of day – to slow down, be present and feel grateful for the things around you. It’s to really sink into the moment, to find the stillness and savour what is left of the year. You might like to actively do something for each day of the month (like journaling, or mediating, or walking), or you might just take a minute each day to be still. The choice is yours – but the emphasis is on being present and enjoying the month, rather than waiting for the new year to start.

How it works

You don’t have to sign up for anything or pay for anything. Simply, all you have to do is commit to doing something deliberately every day (or most days) in December – in whatever way feels good for you. I’ll provide some simple prompts for each day of December (below) to help guide you if you need.

If you feel like it, you can share an image each day with the hashtag #mydeliberatedecember.

Some things you might want to consider for your own Deliberate December practice:

– What time of day do you want to do it?

– What do you want to include? I recommend really thinking about what will make you feel good, not what you think you should include. Some things you might like to consider are:

  • Meditation
  • Morning pages
  • Journaling
  • Exercise – yoga, walking, swimming, etc
  • Reading
  • Prayer
  • Time outside
  • Painting, drawing or other arty things
  • Self care such as taking a bath, applying some lovely body lotion, deep breathing, a lovely cup of tea, etc.

Note: This practice is about the practice, not producing a product. The focus is on what you are doing and how it feels, not what you might be producing. It’s about being deliberate with your days, not producing a collection of paintings or reading a certain number of books. Being present in the process is what is most important.

Prompts to guide you

I created some prompts to help you in your Deliberate December practice. You don’t have to use these, but they might be helpful. These are very simple, and can be used in any way that feels good to you.

Deliberate December 2017

You could use the prompts each day as a guide to:

  • Write a journal entry
  • Paint or draw
  • Take a photograph
  • Write a blog post
  • Do some hand lettering/calligraphy
  • Share a thought/image on social media
  • Find a quote that inspires you
  • Pray
  • Meditate/visualise
  • Contemplate how you can bring more of each quality into your life
  • Remind you – use as a guiding word of the day and come back to it throughout the day
  • Any combination of the above!

My practice will include a combination of journaling (written and visual), photography and sharing on social media.

What to do when you miss a day

Right now, acknowledge that you will likely miss a day, you will ‘mess up’. This practice is exactly that – a practice. It is not meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be gentle and nourishing. This is not another chance to beat yourself up.

If you miss a day of your Deliberate December, then simply get back to it the next day. No blame, no criticism, no guilt.

Remember, it’s about the process, the practice. Even if you were only practicing every second day you would still feel better than not at all. Be open to not doing it perfectly.

The other thing is that you can change the practice if it’s not working for you. Don’t panic about being locked into doing something. If you get a few days in, or halfway, and it’s not working anymore, then change it! You have permission to do what works for you.

Before you begin: Prompts to get you thinking about your own Deliberate December practice

  • What is most missing from your life right now?
  • What do you need more of?
  • What do you want less of?
  • How could you nourish and care for yourself more?
  • What feels manageable for you to do each day?
  • Imagine it is the start of 2018 and you’ve spent December more deliberately. What things might have you been doing? How would you feel?
  • What tools could you use to help you stay on track?

Comment below and share your ideas for your own Deliberate December practice.

Creativity

Write to the Centre – A book review and giveaway

Write to the Centre: Navigating life with gluestick and words
by Helen Lehndorf

Write to the Centre - Helen Lehndorf

Do you ever feel like you are a total weirdo? Like no one understands you, or if people knew what you really think, they might be horrified? Do you ever struggle to understand your own feelings and reactions to things and need a bit of help untangling them? I do, I do and I do. – Helen Lehndorf

This book. I don’t know where to start except to say that I love it. LOVE it.

Flipping through it simply to look at the gorgeous imagery is enough to inspire me – a few pages in and I’m itching to get out my journal, gluestick and paints, and get creating.

But the text itself is also inspiring. I’d describe it as part how-to, part memoir. The author shares excerpts from her own journal alongside guidance on journal-keeping. All her ideas and advice are illustrated by her own words from her own journals.

From Write to the Centre

There’s just something so intimate and comforting about reading the words of another’s journals – something that tells you that you’re not alone in your feelings, experiences, views of the world. By the end of the book I feel like I know Helen – like I’ve met a kindred spirit on a journey similar to mine: someone trying to find their way in the world, using creative practice to make sense of it all.

She covers topics like getting started and making journaling a habit, allowing the ugly, navigating life transitions in your journal, processing pain, solving problems, creating rituals, appreciating the good. And each chapter ends with a unique and detailed journaling prompt to get you working in your own journal.

From Write to the Centre

My favourite thing about this book is the imagery from Helen’s visual journals. It is an absolute feast for the eyes and soul; Helen’s distinctive and unique journaling style is colourful, messy and intuitive. She combines collage, painting and her handwriting to create honest and interesting journal pages (see more of her style here). It’s a great book to dip into for a creative boost.

You can grab your copy of the book here.

Giveaway

—- The giveaway is now closed —-

Helen has been generous enough to provide me with a copy to give away. I’m so thrilled to be able to do this because it is such a gorgeous book and it needs to be in the hands of every visual journaler. I’m also throwing in a set of watercolour paints to get you painting in your journal. Here’s how to enter:

  • Share this post, or the image below on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+) or on your own blog
  • Use the hashtag #writetothecentregiveaway
  • Comment below (so I know you’ve shared it and I have a way to contact you!) telling me where you shared it and what you love most about journaling
  • Closes August 31st midnight EST 2017

Win a copy of the gorgeous journaling book Write to the Centre and a set of watercolour paints!

Full disclosure – I was sent a free copy of the book and asked to review it – but I had already purchased my own copy so that’s why I’m giving this copy away. Everything I’ve said in this review comes from my heart – I just adore the book and recommend it to any journaling enthusiast like myself.

Creativity

Journal prompts: Goodbye 2016

I love this time of year. There is something so cleansing about moving out of an old year and into a new one – and these journal prompts can help with just that.

Many of the courses and workbooks released at this time of year contain both a section to reflect on the previous year and a section to set goals and get excited for the new year. I didn’t create a section for the past year in the Magical 2017 Yearbook course because I wanted the course to focus purely on bringing in the wonderful things for the new year. I want the yearbook to be a guide for you through 2017 and I thought having notes about 2016 in there wasn’t necessary – and may even be counterproductive for some.

But I do think it’s important to make peace with the past, celebrate what you’ve achieved, and be honest about the things that didn’t work out. I don’t feel right going straight into the new year without some kind of ritual releasing the year that’s been.

dont look sideways

Why? For me, it’s the feeling of awareness and a sense of closure. Awareness of what has happened this year, but more importantly, awareness about my feelings towards these things. For example, we still haven’t finished our tiny house build (but we are really close!) and that makes me a little disappointed. I don’t want to avoid this feeling, but rather make peace with it and use it to help me figure out how to make next year better.

So, with that in mind, I’ve created some journal prompts to get you thinking about the year that’s been. There are loads of great prompts online, I’ve just selected some of the ones I love and added a few of my own.

I hope these can guide you through a sort of closing ceremony for 2016, so you can welcome the new year with open arms.

Journal Prompts:

  • What were the most significant events of the year past? List the top three.
  • Describe 2016 in one sentence:
  • This year I’m most grateful for…
  • My biggest achievement this year was…
  • This year I got really excited about…
  • This year I was most inspired by…
  • My greatest challenge this year was…
  • I need forgive myself for…
  • My biggest piece of unfinished business from this year is…
  • The greatest lesson I’ve learned this year is…
  • How have you grown as a person this past year? How are you different this year than last?
  • This year I wish I had done more…
  • I wish I had done less…
  • What was the best way you used your time this past year?
  • If you had more time to invest in this past year, what would you do with it?
  • If I could redo 2016, I would…
  • Write a letter to the you from the start of last year. What advice would you give yourself?
  • If 2016 was a book, what would the title be? Name some of the chapters.
  • Did you have a guiding word or guiding values for 2016? How did it serve you? How did it challenge you?
  • The biggest gifts of 2016 were…

Be gentle with yourself when going through this, it can be tough if the past year has been a difficult one. I always find a cup of tea, some nice music and a candle, incense or essential oils are comforting.

Happy new year!

Self Empowerment

Join me for a simple, free, nourishing practice in December

I always get excited at this time of year. As the new year comes closer, I sense the chance for fresh beginnings, new dreams, growth.

Of course, there’s still a whole month of 2016 left to go! And by rushing to prepare for the new year, I’m shortchanging myself for this year.

A little while ago I shared an image from my journal on Instagram where I talked about how I had this bad habit of getting onto social media first thing in the morning, and how it made me feel crappy for the day ahead.

So many people commented and said they felt the same way. It got me thinking.

What if we set about to be a bit more deliberate with how we spend our time – whether morning, evening, or in between?

And then I thought, one of the most stressful times of year is coming up. If you’re working you might be rushing to get stuff done before the end of the year. If you’re a mum, wife or homemaker you might be stressing to get Christmas things organised – gifts, meals, decorations, whatever. You might be preparing to travel or have family come and stay. Or maybe you find the holidays a lonely and sad time, for whatever reason.

I think a lot of us are tempted to rush through December and get to the new year. But what if we slowed down and really savoured December? Rather than crashing into the new year and attempting to start fresh then, we can step gracefully into 2017 with a nourishing daily routine already in place. We don’t have to wait until January to start feeling good – let’s do it now.

So the idea for Deliberate December was born.

Deliberate December - a simple, nourishing practice to end the year feeling calm and content.

How it works

You don’t have to sign up for anything or pay for anything. Simply, all you have to do is commit to doing something deliberately every day (or most days) in December – in whatever way feels good for you. I’ll provide some simple journaling prompts below to get you thinking about what might feel good for you in December, and then you do it!

If you feel like it, you can share an image each day with the hashtag #mydeliberatedecember. Here’s how my Deliberate December is going to look:

Mornings: Each weekday, before 9am, I’m going to journal first thing and then do timed writing. I may or may not do these things on the weekend – I’m leaving that part open. The main thing is for me to not get straight onto social media, but to start my day deliberately.

Evenings: I also want to end my days with more intention, and I’ve been neglecting some essential pregnancy self-care rituals, so these will be done in the evenings. Before bed on weekdays, I’m going to do some gentle stretching and massage, meditation and reading before bed. Ideally this will take about 30 minutes, with the goal of getting to sleep by 11pm.

That’s it. Pretty straightforward.

Some things you might want to consider for your own Deliberate December practice:

– What time of day do you want to do it? I chose mornings because I’m off work now and am finding myself sort of drifting aimlessly into my days. This isn’t a good feeling. I added in evenings because I think if I go to bed with intention, I’m more likely to wake up with intention. Without the structure of work to guide me, I need to create my own structure.

– What do you want to include? I recommend really thinking about what will make you feel good, not what you think you should include. Some things you might like to consider are:

  • Meditation
  • Morning pages/journaling
  • Exercise – yoga, walking, swimming, etc
  • Reading
  • Prayer
  • Time outside
  • Painting
  • Self care such as taking a bath, applying some lovely body lotion, deep breathing, a lovely cup of tea, etc.

img_0436

Note: This practice is about the practice, not producing a product. The focus is on what you are doing and how it feels, not what you might be producing. It’s about being deliberate with your days, not producing a collection of paintings or reading a certain number of books. Being present in the process is what is most important.

Tools to help

I’m using a few tools to help me with my Deliberate December practice. These are things that can help keep me accountable and just make the whole process a bit easier. Here’s what I’m using:

  • The hashtag #mydeliberatedecember – sharing my progress with others will help to keep me accountable.
  • My journal itself is a way of keeping me accountable as I’m forced to confront myself each day – and why I may have chosen to not do my practice!
  • The Forest App – I have this as an app on my phone and a Chrome extension. It stops me from opening up other apps/tabs when I’m focused on doing something (like writing) and times my progress. Brilliant!
  • 750words.com – this is an online platform that tracks my daily timed writing to ensure I write a minimum of 750 words. This was originally based on the idea of Morning Pages, which are about 750 words long, so could be useful for that.
  • Guided meditation – I’m not sure which one I will do yet, but it will be short and easy (5-10 minutes). I’m thinking something from the Insight Timer App.

You could also use things like fitness trackers or timers if your practice includes fitness or exercise, updating Good Reads if your practice includes reading – or just simply share using the hashtag. Make it simple and fun!

What to do when you miss a day

Right now, acknowledge that you will likely miss a day, you will ‘mess up’. This practice is exactly that – a practice. It is not meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be gentle and nourishing. This is not another chance to beat yourself up.

If you miss a day of your Deliberate December, then simply get back to it the next day. No blame, no criticism, no guilt.

Remember, it’s about the process, the practice. Even if you were only practicing every second day you would still feel better than not at all. Be open to not doing it perfectly.

The other thing is that you can change the practice if it’s not working for you. Don’t panic about being locked into doing something. If you get a few days in, or halfway, and it’s not working anymore, then change it! Total freedom to do what works for you.

Prompts to get you thinking about your own Deliberate December Practice

  • What is most missing from your life right now?
  • What do you need more of?
  • What do you want less of?
  • How could you nourish and care for yourself more?
  • What feels manageable for you to do each day?
  • Do you want to focus more on how you start or end your day – or both? Or perhaps the middle?
  • Imagine it is the start of 2017 and you’ve spent December more deliberately. What things might have you been doing? How would you feel?
  • What tools could you use to help you stay on track?

Comment below and share your ideas for your own Deliberate December practice.

Creativity

6 ways to get out of a creative slump

Lately, I’ve been in a real creative slump.

It began when I finished running my first course, Wild Intuitive Journaling, and I noticed my creative well was dry. I’d poured so much into the creation of the course that I had little left by the end of it.

Add to that the fact that I’ve been feeling unwell for about a month and I’ve had no interest or energy to create anything at all. I barely picked up my journal, struggled to write any blog posts or share on social media.

Yep, I was well and truly in a creative slump. 

I did what I usually do at this point – panic that all my creativity and inspiration had left me for good. That I would never write or paint again. That, it turns out, I’m not an inherently creative being – that was just a front I’ve kept up for a few years – and really I’m this sad and hopeless person underneath.

But I’ve been through enough creative slumps now to realise that none of that is true. More than that, I’ve realised that creativity is cyclical – like anything else. It waxes and wanes. It made sense that after a period of intense creativity, coupled with needing to look after my unwell self, that I didn’t have the energy or inclination to create.

I’ve realised that creativity is cyclical – like anything else. It waxes and wanes.

So I allowed myself the time to do nothing. To step back and be gentle.

But as the weeks turned into a month, and I found myself feeling better, I wondered how, exactly, I could get my creative mojo back. I was ready to jump back in but had no idea where to start.

Here’s what I’ve found helpful as I carefully step back into the creative arena.

6 ways to get out of a creative slump

1. Go easy on yourself

First of all, don’t beat yourself up for not creating. Don’t add blame and guilt to fire. If you’ve found yourself in a bit of a creative slump, chances are there is a good reason you are there. For me, that reason was illness and needing to refill my creative well.

And you know what? Even if there isn’t a ‘good’ reason that you can identify – that doesn’t matter. Don’t make yourself feel worse by adding guilt or shame – let yourself off the hook. You’re allowed to take a break.

2. Seek out inspiration

This, honestly, has been my favourite part. I’ve taken it as a chance to soak up the work of others, to seek out what excites me. I’m scouring the blogs of my favourite journalers, I’m going back through my Pinterest boards to see images that fill me with inspiration. I’m watching YouTube videos and going back through materials from past journaling courses I’ve taken.

I have certain journalers whose work I love, who never fail to inspire me. Looking at their work sparks a little inspiration inside, and the more I look through it, the more it fans the flames. Before long I’m grabbing my paints and scribbling in my journal.

3. Join a challenge or group

There are so many free art groups and challenges out there. The best thing about joining something like this is the accountability. You feel you need to show up and participate – especially if you’ve declared publicly that you’re doing it.

Not only that, but there is so much support from other creatives. The more you share, the more people will cheer you on. That feels really good. And when you hit a wall, if you share that with the group, you’ll be amazed to find others are feeling the same. Sometimes we think we are alone in our struggles, but when we share them with others we quickly learn we aren’t.

Another good thing about joining a challenge is that it can be a good way to jump-start your practice. Often a challenge will have a theme or prompts, or other guiding material which can help guide you as you step back into your creativity.

Here are some of my favourite art/journaling challenges and groups – all of them are free. Some of these have time frames and some are ongoing:

Journaling Dangerously challenge and Journaling Dangerously group

15 Minute Practice challenge and 15 Minute Practice group

Index-Card-A-Day challenge and ICAD-2016 group

Inner Excavate Along challenge and Inner Excavation Group

Journal 52 challenge and Journal 52 group

30 Day Journal Project

100 Days Project

4. Treat yourself to new supplies

This can be a really fun way to get out of a creative slump. And let’s face it – who among us doesn’t have a massive list of dream art supplies? Don’t break the bank, but it surely wouldn’t hurt to allow yourself to grab a few pots of that paint you’ve always wanted to try, or some new brushes, or a few balls of that gorgeous yarn.

Sometimes the excitement of trying a new material, colour or tool can be enough to get us creating again.

5. Sign up for a course

Is there an online course you’ve been eyeing for ages but never allowed yourself to sign up for? Now’s the time. Find an artist or teacher you love or whom you’ve always wanted to learn from, and indulge.

A word of warning – this can be an easy way to waste money, if you’re not careful. Obviously, signing up for the course alone won’t get you out of the slump – you’ll need to show up and do the work. But, if you sign up for a course that truly inspires you, one that ignites that creative spark inside, then that should certainly be a good investment.

Another thing to consider here is to take baby steps – don’t sign up for the six month intensive, maybe just start with the four week introductory course and go from there. The last thing we want is for you to feel overwhelmed, and then guilty for not following through!

6. Take time out from other things

It might be that you’re in a creative slump because you haven’t had the time or energy to create – your life has been too full. Maybe you’ve found yourself working extra shifts at work. Maybe you’re taking on more responsibilities around the house, or helping a friend or family member with something. Perhaps you’ve signed up for a new exercise programme at the gym.

Whatever it is, if you want to have the time and energy to create again, you might need to make some sacrifices somewhere else. I’m not suggesting you quit the gym or leave your job, but you might need to ask for help from someone else to allow you a little time to create. Ask your spouse to watch the kids one night a week so you can journal. Take your knitting to work and use your lunch break as a chance to knit. Wake up a little earlier to get 15 minutes of writing in.

Try to find a way to allow more time and energy in your life to get creative, even if that means taking some time or energy out from another area of your life. Chances are, you’ll feel better for it.

*  *  *

I’m now finding myself taking careful and gentle steps back into my creative self-expression. Writing this post is one of the first ways of doing that, and I hope it helps even one person find their creative footing again.

Remember, you’re not alone and your inspiration isn’t gone forever – it will come back around when the time is right.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal spotlight: Dream journal

One of my favourite things about journaling is learning more about myself – my values, desires, goals, fears, strengths and weaknesses. For me, journaling is a tool to dig deeper into who I am and what makes me tick.

One of the best ways to learn more about ourselves is to look into the symbols and themes in our dreams. Keeping a dream journal is a great way to record our dreams so we can better understand what they might mean.

I’ve always wanted to keep a dream journal, but whenever I’ve started one in the past I’ve never kept it up. After writing this post, I think I’m going to have a go, at the very least, at incorporating more dreams into my daily journal.

I have pretty vivid dreams most nights, and I certainly have repeated places, people, events and themes in my dreams. I love the idea of recording them to reread later and interpret some of the deeper meanings.

One of the best description of dreams I’ve ever heard is from one of my favourite movies, The Giver:

Dreams: A combination of reality, fantasy, emotions and what you had for dinner.

So what is a dream journal? Basically, you record the dreams you have at night, when you wake in the morning.

Why keep a dream journal?

There are lots of reasons to do so, but here are a few that resonate with me:

  • Greater understanding of yourself. You can uncover deeper feelings, desires, concerns and other things about yourself that are usually below the surface of your awareness. Recording them will allow you to dig deeper and possibly figure out what’s happening down there.
  • Inspiration. There are some really cool things that come up in our dreams due to the fact that our logical mind shuts down at this time. If you’re a creative who’s looking for ideas, you could stumble on some interesting things in your night time adventures!
  • Get better at lucid dreaming – that awesome state where you know you are dreaming so you can control what happens!

How to start your own dream journal

Choose a journal you want to record your dreams in and keep it beside your bed, or somewhere else you will remember to pick it up first thing.

Set the intention before going to sleep that you will remember your dreams.

First thing upon waking, record whatever you remember. It doesn’t have to make sense, just get it down – even if you have forgotten big portions of the dream, record what you can remember. Be as detailed as possible.

Don’t judge what comes up, just record it.

You can use drawings as well – you don’t have to stick to words! If you want to capture a certain place or feeling, you could draw it or use colour in your dream journal. Combining written and visual elements may also help to stimulate more dream recall.

Give the dream a title or sum it up in a sentence. This is a neat idea I read about here.

Practice – the more you do this, the more you will start to remember your dreams in more detail. Keep going.

And then what?

After you’ve been doing this for a while, you may like to look back through your dreams to get a better understanding of yourself. Certain images, themes, words, colours, events or people may reoccur. You could go through and highlight some of these, then journal about what they could mean.

You could use a dream dictionary for guidance, but personally, I believe that we are the experts on ourselves. You will start to notice patterns in your dreams that you will probably be able to interpret yourself. If you also keep a personal journal, you could possibly match up what has been happening in your life with what has been appearing in your dreams.

Try not to take it too seriously. While I think there most certainly are some deeper meanings we can uncover from our dreams, I also think that some of them are simply, as The Giver says, ‘what you had for dinner’.

Do you keep a dream journal? What do you enjoy about it? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Creativity

What are your words hiding?

When you establish a regular journaling habit, and you have been at it for a while, you will start to notice something.

There will be certain words or phrases that are repeated, maybe unconsciously, throughout your entries.

You may even notice as you’re journaling that you’re repeating something you’ve already said that day, or a few days earlier. Or you may only notice when looking back through entries that you have a habit of repeating certain words or phrases.

When I’m journaling, words that come up time and time again are exhausted, fear, creative, inspired.

I almost always realise when I’m writing ‘I’m just so exhausted’ again, but I didn’t realise quite how much I used this word. Looking back through past journals, it’s in almost every second entry. I also tend to use ‘creative’ and ‘inspired’ in most entries – which is hopefully a little more positive than ‘exhausted’!

Our tics are a road map to our most hidden and sensitive wounds.

Shapiro says, ‘If we are interested in delving deeply, if we are students of the observed life, we’d best take a good hard look at these easy fallbacks. Repeated words. Familiar phrases. Consider them clues. When you discover them, slow down. In fact, stop. Become willing to press against the bruise – it’s there anyway – and see what it yields.’

That makes me wonder, why do I feel the need to constantly state that I’m exhausted in my journal entries? Is it because I am usually journaling first thing in the morning (6am) when I haven’t quite woken up and, quite literally, feel tired? Or is it easy to use a blanket term like ‘exhaustion’ to cover all the different negative emotions I feel – particularly in my job – like boredom, apathy, frustration or anger?

When my life isn’t going how I want it to go it’s easy to say I feel exhausted. But I think in many cases if I were to look closer, there would be more to it than that.

It’s not until I can be truly honest and confront these difficult emotions that I will make progress. The next time I go to write ‘I’m just so exhausted…’ I will pause and ask myself, is that what I am really feeling?

Have a look back through any journals you have and see if there are any patterns – any phrases or words that you tend to repeat. What might they be covering? Press against the bruise.

Creativity

Journal spotlight: Art journal

I’m going to start simply by saying that an art journal can be anything you want it to be, really.

In its most simple sense, an art journal is any kind of journal where you express yourself visually. Often art journals are mixed media – that is, a combination of elements such as collage, acrylic or watercolour paint, gouache, pencil, crayon, stamps, inks, etc.

I’ve spent the past two years trying to figure out exactly what an art journal is, at least for me. I’ve seen the beautiful works of people like Tamara Laport, the simple but touching pieces by Nicole Rae, the messy and inspiring sketchbooks of Lisa Sonora, and the gorgeous and striking works by people like Alena Hennessy and Hali Karla.

I’ve worked in sketchbooks, gluebooks, journals, binders, altered books… I’ve collaged, stamped, painted, drawn, written, sprayed, taped, watercoloured, lettered… and still I have struggled to define exactly what art journaling is.

I’ve struggled to find my own style and really claim my own art journaling approach.

Then, a dear friend of mine pointed out that I do have my own style – I just wasn’t acknowledging it.

You see, I had always thought that art journaling was not the same thing as visual journaling. In fact, here is an awesome video that discusses this point quite nicely.

So while I’ve been journaling visually for some time – in a similar sketchbook style to Lisa Sonora (if I may be so bold as to suggest that), I haven’t felt as though I have been art journaling, really, at all. Sure I was incorporating art techniques into my visual journaling, but it certainly wasn’t art.

Perhaps it’s the word ‘art’ in the name art journal – I mean, no pressure, right?!

I much prefer the term visual journal, or creative journal.

For a while, I saw an ‘art journal’ as more focused on particular techniques and creating a specific, visually pleasing outcome, and the term ‘visual journal’ as more about the process and self expression. Now… I’m not so sure.

When I saw Lisa Sonora had blown up images from her sketchbooks to put up onto the walls of her studio, a little thought crept into my head: maybe, just maybe, this could also be art? She says,

They’re not art…but they are artifacts of a creative journey. It’s like meditation, but with art supplies.

I don’t know. Seeing them up on the wall like that, they sure look like art to me. Surely they can be both?

As for my own messy journals – I may not have found a style that looks anything like the work of Tamara, or Alena, but I’ve got my own visual approach. Who’s to say it’s not art, in some form? And it will continue to evolve over time, as I do. I figure as long as I’m expressing myself visually, well, that’s all that matters.

My advice to anyone who wants to start an art journal: grab some art supplies you like (acrylic paint is a good one, as are stamps) and play. That’s it. I was going to give some lengthy list of instructions but really, you don’t need them and they would only serve to confuse or intimidate someone starting out. Find an artist you love and copy their style for a bit, then copy the work of someone else. Do this many times over and you will start to find your own style. Give yourself permission, try to get past the fear of creating, and practice being imperfect. You don’t have to show anyone, or you can join 15 Facebook groups and show the world. There is no right or wrong way.

Do you keep an art journal? How do you define art journal? Do you see art journaling and visual journaling as different things? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

How journaling can change your life

I’ve been journaling since I was ten years old, but it wasn’t until I committed to a regular journaling practice that things in my life began to really shift.

I’ve maintained that practice for four years now and in that time a lot has changed in my life. I don’t think it is a coincidence that these positive changes have happened since I’ve been journaling consistently.

In fact, my experience has shown me that regular journaling is one of the best tools we can use to transform our lives.

It might sound a bit too easy, but it’s true: anyone can use their journaling practice to create positive changes, overcome fear and bring their dreams to life.

Early on in my journaling practice I noticed some pretty massive changes in my life. In the space of two years, the following things happened:

  • I’ve begun and maintained a creative practice, including making and sharing my art
  • I’ve left a full-time job that was slowly sucking the life out of me
  • I’m more at peace and happier than I have been in a long time (as someone who has been through many depressive episodes in her life, I’ve not even been close to feeling that way since developing my journaling habit)
  • My relationship with my partner has improved dramatically (as a side note, he proposed to me shortly after I began my journaling practice, which I also do not think is a coincidence)
  • I’ve started and maintained a writing practice through a blog, something I’ve wanted to do for years
  • My partner and I have made our tiny house dream a reality – building our own house together after years of talking about it
  • I’ve created an online business using my writing, teaching and coaching skills
  • My partner and I have found a way to purchase our dream property and move to the countryside

In short: many of my long-term dreams have become a reality.

How is this possible? What is it about journaling, the simple act of writing down our thoughts and feelings regularly, that has allowed my life to change in such dramatic ways?

It comes down to a few simple factors.

Getting clear

Each morning when I open my journal to write, I find myself writing about what’s happening in my life: what I’m doing, how things are going, what’s working and what’s not.

I write about the things I dream of, what I hope for, what I long for.

This is what happens when you journal regularly: each and every day you show up to the page, you refine and clarify exactly how you want your life to look as you bring into your awareness the things that are and aren’t working in your life as it is.

You also get clear about the things standing between you and the life you want: journaling encourages you to dig deep so that you can uncover your doubts, worries and fears.

Before long, it becomes clear what it is that you want and what it is that is standing in your way.

It takes honesty and courage to get clear, but the more regularly you journal, the more clarity you will get.

  • Try this: make lists of the following:
    • What’s working in my life
    • What isn’t working in my life
    • What I want my life to look like
    • What I long for

Reread these lists as you journal over the coming days.

Connecting

Some believe that journaling, like meditation and other spiritual practices, allows you to connect with the divine or a greater power than yourself. Others believe that journaling allows you to connect with your own higher self, a source of inner wisdom. Some believe these two are the same thing.

God, inner wisdom, the universe, the divine… call it what you like, but something magical happens when you show up to the page often enough. You open up a channel to a higher source of wisdom, faith and courage to which you wouldn’t normally have access.

When you journal regularly, this connection is strengthened and can become a valuable source of guidance. This connection allows for inspiration. It helps you to feel strong and courageous. It reminds you to have faith even when you might falter.

Through this connection to something bigger, you can often find the answers you seek. By asking questions in your journal and being open, answers will come.

Fostering a daily connection with our highest and wisest self can only be a good thing.

  • Try this: take some quiet time alone with your journal. Decide how you would best like to address the source of higher wisdom you seek (e.g. God, inner self, universe, divine, etc). Then, write to this source asking a question you want the answers to. Be clear, direct and honest. Once you have written your question, take a moment to pause and sit in silence. Whatever comes to mind, write this down. This is the response. Be open to whatever you hear and allow it to come freely.

Overcoming resistance

So you get clear about what you want, you find the answers and guidance you need, but what about actually taking steps to make things happen?

The journal is a powerful tool to help you overcome resistance. Resistance is usually just fear disguised as procrastination, excuses, distractions, perfectionism, and other similar states.

Resistance is usually present when doing something new, making a change, or stepping out of your comfort zone in any way. Resistance is the reason so many wonderful dreams don’t become reality.

But I have found the fastest way to kill resistance is to expose it. Journal about it. Get honest and let it all out.

Why? Because when you write down your fears, when you put them into words and onto paper, they lose their power. They are no longer these big scary ideas floating around in your mind – they are mere sentences and words. And most of the time, you will see that they aren’t that scary after all.

  • Try this: in your journal, answer this question: what is stopping you from creating a life you love? Write honestly and let all your fears pour out onto the page. Don’t worry if they sound silly; just write whatever it is that is bothering you. When you have finished, write an affirmation encouraging yourself to be bold.

Staying in alignment

The daily act of writing means that you are regularly checking in with yourself. Instead of pushing through busy days without a moment to stop and think, the act of journaling forces you to slow down and reflect. It brings awareness to your life.

Each day that I show up to my journal and complain about something that is not working in my life is a reminder that I’m not doing enough of the things that bring me joy, that are taking my closer to my dreams.

Journaling daily – checking in with yourself emotionally, mentally, spiritually on a regular basis – can help you to stay on track.

Why? Because it highlights areas of incongruity in your life. You may journal about how much you hate being in debt but then in the same entry write about how you love shopping. What may not be obvious in your daily life can be easily highlighted when you write it down – and especially so when you write it down often.

Journaling regularly reminds you of your goals and values and brings awareness to your thoughts and actions. Slowly but surely, the two will come into alignment and, as long as you keep journaling, they will stay that way.

  • Try this: for the next week, write every day for 15 minutes at the same time. Use this time to check in with yourself emotionally, mentally, spiritually. How are you feeling? What is on your mind? What is your current energy? Note down anything else you want to.

I’m not the same person I was a year ago and it’s all because I pick up my pen to write and create for 30 minutes each day.

Why not give it a try?

Creativity

Journal spotlight: Morning pages journal

What are morning pages?

Basically, they are three pages written by hand first thing each morning. They are simply stream-of-consciousness and can be repetitive, whiny, complaining – there are no rules for the content, simply that you get out whatever is in your head onto the page, without stopping, for three pages. Another way of looking at them is as a ‘brain dump’ to get everything out of your mind. It is the junk in our mind that blocks us creatively, which is why the pages work well as a tool for creative recovery.

Julia Cameron – author of The Artist’s Way – says that morning pages are not negotiable:

Never skip or skimp on morning pages. Your mood doesn’t matter… We have this idea that we need to be in the mood to write. We don’t.

Some people swear by morning pages and won’t start the day without them. Others have tried many times to get into the habit, but can’t quite find their morning pages groove.

One of the other guidelines that Cameron recommends for the morning pages is to not reread them, at least not for a while – in fact, some people throw them out. This emphasises how they are intended as an exercise in emptying the mind of junk (something we would throw out) rather than gathering memories or recording our lives (something we would keep). Cameron describes morning pages as the following:

Three pages of whatever crosses your mind – that’s all there is to it. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write “I can’t think of anything to write…” Do this until you have filled three pages.

However, some believe that morning pages can hold wisdom in them, if we want to go back over them at some point. This makes sense. After writing them for a period of time – such as three months, say – if we look back over them then some things will become quite apparent: things we continuously complain about but never do anything about, patterns and habits that are not serving us, ideas for creative projects, areas in which we have grown, etc. Used in this way, the morning pages are not only a tool for creative recovery, but also a tool for personal growth.

Some people might not keep a separate journal for their morning pages – in fact, they might do their morning pages and journaling in the one notebook (and yes, morning pages and journaling are two different things). This is what I do, because I don’t strictly follow the morning pages ‘rules’ and I want to keep what I’ve written.

For those that are consistent with their morning pages, I can see how doing them in a cheap school exercise or composition notebook would make sense, because you would go through them pretty quickly. If you are using a beautiful journal for writing morning pages, you might find yourself trying to keep your writing neat, tidy and possibly even censoring parts of what you are saying, so as not so ruin your nice journal with whining or negative thoughts. In that sense, the morning pages won’t work nearly as well.

If you’re new to morning pages, I would recommend getting a cheap notebook to use. Make sure it is not something precious. You are going to be writing quickly, you are going to be writing about any and everything – sometimes it won’t even make sense. You are going to end up repeating yourself and probably complaining. But that’s ok – in fact, that’s good, because that is the whole point of the morning pages – to get that out of your head. It’s better on the page than in your head. Cameron says,

There is no wrong way to do morning pages. These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing… Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid or too weird to be included.

And after all this, you might be wondering why even go to the trouble of writing three pages each morning? Besides unblocking your creative energy as mentioned above, morning pages have two other, very powerful outcomes:

  1. You will start to get sick of hearing yourself complain about the things you don’t like in your life, and this will lead you to take action. As Cameron says: ‘It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed-of solutions.’
  2. You will connect with your own inner wisdom and intuition, which can guide you in any area of your life: ‘Anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within.’

Do you write morning pages? Or would you like to start? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.