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.

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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.

Creativity

7 Things you can do right now to create a daily journaling habit

The start of a new year brings the chance to re-establish good habits. For me, this of course includes my daily journaling practice – a chance to recommit to my favourite ritual. Most importantly, I want to make sure that it is a priority each day.

I want to make sure that this year I will continue to maintain my daily journaling habit and not let it get lost in the chaos of life.

I’ve journaled pretty consistently for over two years now (and inconsistently for over a decade before that), so I know the best ways to make sure I stay on track. If you’ve struggled to make your journaling a priority every day, then these tips will help you.

1. Schedule it into your day

This might seem a bit obvious, but when you’re busy it’s easy to not make daily journaling a priority, or to just simply forget in the busyness of life. You could write it down with your important tasks for the day into your paper planner, or put it into your Google calendar to get a reminder. Even writing it on a post-it note to stick on your desk would be helpful.

2. Set your alarm earlier

One of the best ways to make sure your daily journaling gets done (much like exercise, so they say) is to do it first thing. And if you just don’t feel like you have the time, then set your alarm 10, 20 or 30 minutes earlier. It is such a positive way to start the day – to connect with your deeper self, get clear headed and invite purpose and inspiration into the rest of your day. Alternatively, get ready for bed a little bit earlier then spend a few minutes journaling before switching off the light. This is what I’m doing right now and it’s a wonderful way to wind down for bed.

3. Tell someone else

We all know that one of the best ways to stay accountable towards a goal is to share our goal with someone else. Maybe you can find a journaling buddy with whom you can share journal inspiration. Or join a group of like-minded journalers who have the same goal of daily journaling. Check in with them each day and share your progress. It can also be really inspiring to see others working in their journal each day – and it can push you to keep going with yours. Sharing your journaling journey can be a great way to keep you feeling inspired.

4. Prep your journal

This can be as simple as putting the journal and pen on your nightstand so you naturally pick it up before going to sleep, or it can mean preparing a background to write on when you get the time. For example, if you like to write in the mornings, you might prepare a background before bed the night before, so it’s ready to go when you wake up. If you like to use prompts, print out a bunch at once, maybe for the week ahead, and glue them onto a few pages. Then you can just pick up and go!

5. Work in the cracks

I can’t remember where I heard this phrase, but it makes so much sense: we think we need a good 30 minutes undisturbed to sit down and journal, but really it can be done in bits and pieces throughout the day. For example, if you leave a journal open to a spread you’re working on, it can be easy to swipe a bit of paint across the paper right before you head out to work. That literally only takes 2 minutes. Then when you get home and the paint is dry, you might stamp a few images or glue something down while you’re waiting for dinner to cook. Watching a movie with your partner that night you might scribble a few words down. Before you know it, you’ve got a page done.I find this really helpful when I’m busy – I will leave my journal lying open on my desk and then when I get a few minutes – say, if I’m waiting for the kettle to boil – I will scrape a bit of paint across the page and put down a piece of washi tape. It doesn’t have to be all done at once! Chip away when you have a minute or two free.

6. Take your journal with you

This can offer another opportunity to work in the cracks. If you’re sitting at the bus stop, or you’ve got 10 minutes free on your lunch break, or you talk to people on the phone a lot and doodle on a notepad – work in your journal! It can be mindless doodles or deep and thought-provoking -it’s up to you. So often I find myself killing time at work or waiting places (doctor’s waiting rooms, at cafes when meeting friends etc) that could be used creatively. I now take a tiny notebook with me for on-the-go journaling.

7. Get clear on your why

You won’t be able to create a regular journaling practice unless you really want to. It takes commitment to showing up each day, working through stuckness and dealing with the discomfort of trying new things and facing your thoughts and feelings. If you do want to create a daily journaling habit, get clear on why, so it’s easy to keep showing up. It’s not enough to just think it would be fun, because some days it isn’t. Some days it’s frustrating, disappointing, even painful. But it can bring so much growth, it can help you to create a better life and become a better person, and it can nourish you creatively. For me, those things are reason enough to show up each day, even when I’m busy. What is your why?

*  *  *

If you’ve maintained a regular journaling practice most days, what do you use to help you stay on track?

Creativity

Journal spotlight: Personal journal

The personal journal is your ‘dear diary’ sort of journal, where you pour all your thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams, fears and doubts onto the page.

Some people argue that the terms ‘journal’ and ‘diary’ have different meanings – that a diary is to record daily events and experiences, whereas a personal journal is a lot more, well, personal.

Regardless of what you call it, it’s the sort of notebook where you are usually quite candid and it’s the kind of thing you tend to keep private.

I started keeping a journal (although at the time I called it a diary) when I was about 11 years old. At that time it mostly was a daily record of events, with a few thoughts and feelings mixed in. Slowly I started to include crushes, conflicts with friends, worries about the future, feelings of inadequacy.

IMG_8803
My first journal, started at age 11. Somehow this tiny notebook lasted me for two years!

I didn’t think much about what I was doing or why I was doing it, although it was right when I started middle school (what we call intermediate school in NZ). I think I did it to have a record of my experiences, but the practice grew into so much more.

My personal journaling practice has grown and evolved over the past two decades.

I spent most of my teens and early twenties turning to my journal mostly in times of trouble: breakups, career concerns, friendship dilemmas, existential crises. It was my go-to place to process these things, and I almost always felt better for doing so. When I was deep in a depression a few years back, simply writing in my journal each day made me feel much better.

Now I keep a personal journal for many reasons, including processing emotions more effectively, developing a sense of self compassion, overcoming fears and creative blocks, and increasing my self confidence, among other things.

I certainly still turn to my personal journal in tough times as I’ve always done, but I write a lot more often and explore many more positive things too.

It functions as a record of my life, a portable therapist (accessible 24/7 and a fraction of the cost!), a friend and mentor, a creative coach, a life coach, a container of fears, dreams, secrets, and the mundane.

If you’d like to keep a personal journal, it’s very simple.

You write by hand (it can certainly be done digitally but I think there are many benefits to writing by hand). You write stream-of-consciousness, you write honestly, and you try not to edit yourself. You don’t share what you write with others.

You can literally write about whatever you want, but the aim is to include personal aspects. If you want to describe your day, great, but bring in the personal elements of it too – how did you feel today? What did you think about? What do you hope for tomorrow, or next week, or next year? What bothered you today? And so on.

There really aren’t that many rules when it comes to keeping your own personal journal. You can write as often or as little as you like, however, writing more often than not can be very rewarding.

I think the most important thing is to write for yourself, not for someone else – that means keeping the journal private and writing openly and honestly without censoring yourself.

Do you keep a personal journal? What do you include in it? Share your personal journaling experiences in the comments.

Creativity

Why fear is a friend, not an enemy

Last night a had a dialogue with fear in my journal. It was simply a case of me writing what I wanted to say to fear, then waiting to hear what fear had to say back, and writing that down.

I’ve done dialogues in the past, and they always feel a little silly. Each time I go to use this journaling technique I think, but isn’t it just me writing those words?

Well, yeah, of course. But the fear is a part of me.

And this turned out to be an incredibly useful exercise.

You see, it started out as a rant. I’ve been pushing myself to dream bigger lately, with creating an online course and offering my coaching services online, as well as redesigning the website. I have a lot of ideas and inspiration floating around at the moment.

And then fear comes along and – as Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic – screams the one word it knows: STOP. STOP STOP STOP.

So when I sat down to talk to fear last night, I was all ready to give it a piece of my mind. I was sick of it getting in my way, ruining my plans and basically just crapping all over everything.

But the strangest thing happened.

I found within myself a sort of compassion for my fear.

It is so worried about me, about protecting me and keeping me safe. It’s like a little child who just wants us to hide under the bed. Instead of yelling at it and pushing it away, I took a moment to see things from fear’s perspective. No wonder it’s so worried – going after big dreams can be a scary thing!

And then I realised another thing – I actually need fear. Fear is a great indicator that I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Whenever fear starts to pop up, I know that I’m growing and challenging myself.

So I reassured fear that I wasn’t trying to get rid of it, but that I just needed it to trust me. I said:

But here’s the thing: I’m going to keep going even when you feel like stopping. And I know we will be safe, because of faith. I have faith that things will work out – I certainly wouldn’t be asking you to quiet down and let me continue if I didn’t have faith! So I need you to trust me, to trust that I know things will be ok. I’ve been doing this for 30 years now and I am absolutely on your side. It’s just that I have access to information that you don’t – and that’s my faith. You know, if you worked along with faith, we could do some amazing things.

I’ve always thought of faith and fear as polar opposites – natural enemies. One of my favourite sayings is, ‘let your faith be bigger than your fear’. But what if they could help each other?

Imagine that – getting faith and fear to work together!

Fear pops up and says ‘stop! This is too scary!’ and faith says, ‘thanks for that – we’re definitely on the right path then. Ok, we can keep going, just trust me.’

Maybe this sounds silly to you. It feels a little silly as I write this, in all honesty. But I can tell you one thing for sure: I feel so much better for talking with my fear, for reassuring it that I need it and it is heard.

And from now on, I’m going to approach fear in a much different way: less anger, resentment and irritation at its arrival, and more compassion, reassurance and trust instead.

How does fear hold you back? How could fear become a friend to support you?

Creativity

Overcoming fear in the creative process

4 ways that fear can hinder the creative process and what to do about it

Of all the things I’ve thought about myself, I never would have thought to describe myself as ‘fearful’.

But, when I began a regular dialogue with myself by journaling every day, I started to see how much fear held me back in my life. I have lived a lot of my life in fear, mostly without knowing it.

As I developed my journaling and creative practice, I noticed a strange thing happening. As much as I loved creating, I also found a great deal of resistance towards it. I would sign up for the latest course, buy the art supplies I’d been lusting after, then stop.

The tricky thing about fear is that it has so many disguises, we sometimes don’t even recognise it. I wasn’t not creating because of fear! How silly. No, I was just really busy, you see. Plus, I wanted to do it just right, so I was waiting until I had the skills and time to perfect it. Also, it was really important that the house was clean and I checked my emails before starting.

No, it wasn’t about fear at all, right?

Nonsense. It was fear all along.

But because of the way that fear is so sneaky it took me a while to realise what was actually going on. Resistance is fear. Avoidance is fear. Perfectionism is fear. Procrastination is fear. It was just fear in its many disguises.

I suspect I am not alone in battling the many faces of fear when creating. I wanted to share some of the things I have learnt and the tricks I have used to beat fear at its own game.

This is one of the easiest ways fear gets us, because it can seem so legitimate. Of course you have to clean the house, that’s not fear – that’s being responsible. And you’ve been meaning to organise your bookshelves for ages anyway, so now is as good a time as any. And today is probably a good day to sort out the dry cleaning you’ve had waiting to take in. And of course, you can’t begin until your desk is tidy.

STOP!

It is amazing what we can convince ourselves to do when we are procrastinating on a project. I can put off folding the laundry for days if I feel like it, then as soon as it’s time to start writing a blog post I can hear the laundry calling my name.

Or, it could go the other way: I sign in to my computer to see the next video in the art course I’m doing, and before I realise it I’ve spent two hours on Facebook and another hour reading blogs.

That’s the thing about the internet – it is the ultimate procrastinator’s tool. It can start with a simple ‘I’ll just check my email’ and then you fall into the procrastination vortex, only to resurface an hour later wondering what happened.

But procrastination is nothing more than fear, particularly when it comes to the creative process. You need to be wise to the signs and look it right in the eye.

Try this:
  • Make a list of all the ways you procrastinate. Be as specific as possible.
  • Post this list somewhere you can see it so that you can be aware of when you are procrastinating.
  • If you’re prone to online distraction, use an app that blocks access you the internet for set periods of time (yes, you will survive).
  • Something a bit different: In your allotted ‘creative time’, deliberately do all the things on your list (or as many as possible) instead of creating. Procrastination is often an unconscious process, so once you start trying to procrastinate, it usually stops working.

There is a lot more to procrastination than what I’ve covered. For more amusing and insightful reading on procrastination in general, you can’t go past this article and then this one on Wait But Why. Yes, I spent some time reading those posts instead of writing this one.

Perfectionism

This one is a bit tricky because it can be quite deeply ingrained, especially if you are a bit of a Type A personality or prone to perfectionism in many areas of your life. This is something I struggle with constantly when creating.

In fact, I like to buy spiral-bound notebooks for art journaling because I can always rip a page out if I ‘mess it up’. In my mind, working in properly bound books is tantamount to getting a tattoo on my face. It cannot be undone! It takes all my strength to just create anyway.

But your work will never be perfect. And that is why perfectionism is one of the most destructive ways we stop ourselves from creating – because it is based on a myth: that our work could possibly be perfect, if we just try hard enough.

No. That’s a lie that fear tells us.

And in believing that, we are really short-changing ourselves because often we know that if we don’t start it, we won’t mess it up. If we keep it in our minds, it can remain perfect. I love this line:

Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly – Robert H. Schuller

Or, stated more simply: a done something is better than a perfect nothing.

Try this:
  • Buy yourself the cheapest notebook/journal/supplies possible. This should take away the ‘preciousness’ of them. Fill them with wild abandon and then buy another cheapie.
  • Do something poorly on purpose. Don’t try to make it good – just do it as if you didn’t really care. Then do another and another. Practice being ok with not being perfect.
  • Make a copy of the quote/saying above and place it somewhere prominently in your workspace.
  • Something a bit different: I think that the benefits from journaling or art journaling are often found in the process of creating, not in what we create. When you sit down to create, try to focus on the process instead of the product. Take a few deep breaths before beginning and bring your attention to the present. Eliminate any other distractions. Take pleasure in the movement of the pen across the page, the sweep of the brush. And when you are done, throw the finished product away.

Avoidance

This could potentially have been put under the heading of Procrastination, but I wanted to pay particular attention to the way that avoidance can manifest itself in other ways.

Similar to procrastination, we can often find ways to avoid doing what we deeply long to do, simply because we feel fearful. In particular, I find busyness and numbing to be two powerful avoidance tactics.

Busyness is symptomatic of life in the twenty-first century. We are more overwhelmed by professional, social, familial and financial commitments than ever before. Add in possible health commitments, domestic commitments and other distractions and it starts to become impossible to imagine fitting in time for a creative practice.

But if you want to make time to create, you will – you can. Make sure that you are not using busyness as an excuse to avoid creating.

Numbing is another tactic that can help us avoid creating.leap

Creating is scary stuff: we have to be comfortable with making mistakes, growing, being vulnerable. It’s easy to avoid the dangers of this if we just watch TV, or have a drink, or go shopping, or have another nap. These things can take the edge off our feelings of fear, and disconnect us from ourselves.

The scary thing is that we can’t just numb some feelings – when we numb feelings of fear and vulnerability, we also numb good feelings.

It is only through facing the scary feelings that come with creating that we get to experience the growth, inspiration, accomplishment and bliss it can bring. That’s not to say that all creative experiences will be a bed of roses, but, more often than not, facing the fear and vulnerability head-on leads to a rewarding experience.

Try this:
  • Literally schedule in creative time. Write it in your planner, on the family calendar, put an alert in your phone – whatever. Tell your friends/partner/self that this time is sacred and will not be given up. Try to make it the same time every day/week so that you and others know that Sunday evening is creative time and you are unavailable then. Getting into a routine can help to make creativity a habit.
  • Make a list of all the ways that you numb. My main numbing activities are watching hours of TV episodes, eating when not hungry and oversleeping. Yours might include online shopping, watching lots of movies and drinking. Whatever these numbing habits are (no judgement please!), you need to bring awareness to them.
  • I have found journaling to be invaluable in bringing awareness to my numbing habits. Often I will sit down to journal and think, ‘I don’t have much to say, there isn’t a lot going on’. This is usually a sign to me that I’ve been numbing in some way or other, because I don’t seem to be feeling much. Try journaling regularly each day to check in with what numbing activities you have been doing and how they are making you feel.
  • Get comfortable with discomfort, and go gently: accept that you will feel some feelings you may not enjoy, but that they cannot harm you and they will pass. Be gentle with yourself.

Inner Critic

I couldn’t write a post about creativity and fear without mentioning the inner critic. While not necessarily a separate category from those above, it does deserve special attention.

The inner critic tends to rear its head once you actually start the work. It’s the voice inside that tells you your work is no good. Often it will spiral into a rant along a the lines of: this sucks, you can’t do this, you’re worthless, just stop.

It’s a shame that once you have overcome the obstacles of perfectionism, procrastination and avoidance to actually start creating, the inner critic is waiting to pounce. You’ve managed to sit down and get to work, but the inner critic makes it so painful and unpleasant you want to stop.

The inner critic is once again based in fear. Often the inner critic and perfectionism can work hand-in-hand to make the whole process one big crapfest.

All I can say is this: the sooner you learn to deal with your inner critic’s wily ways, the sooner you will make progress creatively.

Try this:
  • Draw a picture of your inner critic or find an image that represents how you think it looks. Give it a funny hat, or a monocle, or a silly bow tie. You could even give it a name, so that when you’re creating and it speaks up you can think, oh that’s just Dave doing his job. Silly Dave. This takes a lot of the power away from it.
  • Talk to your inner critic as you create. Every time you have a thought along the lines of this is no good, respond out loud by saying something like ‘thank you, but I will keep going anyway’.
  • Write a dialogue between you and your inner critic in your journal. Ask it questions, tell it how you feel, stand up to it! You might be surprised by what it says!

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Artists and creators have struggled with various forms of fear for centuries, and will continue to do so. It is natural as part of the creative process because being creative requires vulnerability and risk.

The topic of fear and creativity is widely discussed and this post barely scrapes the surface – there is so much more I could say! For further reading, check out this book or this book or even this book!

In the meantime, hopefully these ideas will help you to get around fear and give you a way into your creativity.