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, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Vulnerability

Since embarking on my creative journey, I’ve been very interested in fear and courage. I had never really given vulnerability much thought, until I stumbled across the work of Brené Brown and her talk The Power of Vulnerability.

Our culture places a high value on having it all together, being strong and not being seen as weak. But I’ve found that allowing myself to be vulnerable, and sharing that vulnerability with others, has changed the way I approach my life.

Instead of feeling fearful and letting vulnerabilitythat stop me from doing things, I can acknowledge the fear and accept that it’s ok to feel that way. Instead of trying to make things perfect and get everything right, I accept making mistakes and feeling a bit uncomfortable about that.

Why?

Because with vulnerability comes growth. Vulnerability comes when we take a risk, dare to do something, and push ourselves out of our comfort zone.

And, vulnerability leads to real connections with people. It is the act of opening ourselves up to be seen, as we really are, that allows others to connect with and love us as we really are.

It is not a sign of weakness in any sense – how can taking a risk and daring to make a mistake be a sign of weakness?

As Brené Brown says:

Vulnerability is about having the courage to show up and be seen.

One thing about our imperfections is that we often try to hide them from others – we feel vulnerable when they are exposed. I have found it incredibly empowering to share my imperfections with others – especially on my blog and through my art. It allows me to take control of who I am, and embrace all parts of me. And, it helps others to see their imperfections are perfectly ok, and when they reach out to tell me that seeing me be vulnerable has helped them, well that makes it all worthwhile.

Obviously, there is a time and a place to be vulnerable. Pouring your heart out to your boss or the guy who makes your coffee simply because you want to be vulnerable is probably not the best idea. You need to consider who you can be vulnerable with, especially to begin with. Think carefully about who you trust to support you as you share a little more of yourself.

How can you practice vulnerability?

  • Try saying no to something when that’s what you really want
  • Tell someone how you really feel
  • Let another person see a talent or skill you have
  • Share an embarrassing story of yours
  • Tell someone what you are afraid of
  • Share your biggest dreams and hopes with someone

>>> Prompts:

What does the word ‘vulnerability’ mean to you? What does vulnerability feel like or look like to you? Does it have any negative associations? Write about this.

Write about a time that you have felt vulnerable.

How could you see vulnerability being a strength? Why might you want to include more of it in your life? Explore this idea. (If you’re stuck on this one, I really recommend Brené Brown’s work.)

In what ways would you like to (safely) allow yourself to be more vulnerable? Who could support you in this?

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: Try something new

There are so many things I want to do: write books, sell artwork, travel more, meet certain people, learn a new language or two, record an album, learn to sew, knit and crochet… among other things.

The thing is, often when I think of the things I want to do, I can’t help but wish I’d started earlier. Or worse – I feel like it’s probably a bit too late to start at all.

Well, that’s nonsense.

Sometimes I think we talk ourselves out of starting something new because it seems like it will take X many years until we are good at this new thing, and by that stage we will be X years old, and that’s just too old.

Well, I have news for you: you arenot too late still going to reach that age, whether you try the new thing or not.

You can think of it like this – at that age, you can still be in the same position you are in now, with the desire to try the new thing, or you can be that age with a new skill or experience under your belt.

Because either way, you will reach that age. The years will still pass. It’s up to you what you do in the meantime.

>>> Prompts:

What have you always wanted to try but never done? Write as many things as you can think of, big or small.

For each one, why haven’t you done it?

When will you do it? See if you can ‘schedule’ it in somehow in your life either now or in the future.

Imagine your life 5 or 10 years from now. Imagine you haven’t done any of the things on your list. Write about how that would feel.

Now, imagine your life 5 or 10 years from now. Imagine you’ve done the things that are most important to you on your list. Write about how that would feel.

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 prompt: I don’t want to write about…

What do you avoid writing about? Why?

Now that I’ve gotten back into the swing of simple written journaling, I’m finding myself gradually peeling back the layers behind my words. I’m also on a break from work, so I have more time to really delve deep.

The other day, on my weekend getaway to the beach, I found myself carefully dancing around a few issues in my journal. Actually, no, I was flat-out avoiding them.

I wanted to write. I picked up my journal and jotted down a few straightforward lines, but I kept hovering at the surface.

Eventually, I wrote: There are some things I am avoiding talking about right now. Then, to maintain momentum, I listed them off quickly, one after the other.

dont-want-to-write

And just seeing them on the page in front of me was a relief. Why I had I been so scared to write these things down? And besides, what was my journal for if not to explore and resolve problems I’m having?

I decided to be brave and venture further. It was a conscious choice – I decided I wanted to face and explore these things, even though that might feel uncomfortable.

Well, it was a good idea, because it led me to several solutions. And for those issues I didn’t manage to resolve, I certainly felt a sense of relief. There’s something about putting the scary things in our heads down in words that takes away their power.

>>> Prompt:

Take some time out when you won’t be disturbed and make sure you are somewhere you feel safe.

Write at the top of the page: I don’t want to write about/I am avoiding talking about…

Take a deep breath and remind yourself that whatever emotions you feel, you can handle them. Then, let the words flow out of your pen. *

If it feels a bit daunting, you could set a timer and write only for say, 10 minutes. However, I felt the best after letting my issues reach a natural resolution in my journal. This doesn’t mean they were solved, but it means that I felt like I had naturally finished saying what I wanted to at that point. I think if I had set a timer it may have felt unresolved.

If it feels like nothing is coming, or you feel too afraid to face whatever the issue is, that is ok. You could wait for a bit, or simply leave the exercise for another day. Be kind to yourself, go gently.

I suggest you only do this exercise when you feel like you are prepared to deal with whatever comes up. For example, I wrote about my difficult things when I was away somewhere that I always feel safe, a place I go to rest and relax. I also had my best friend in the next room if I felt I needed someone further to talk to.

*Note: obviously a journal, as wonderful as it is, cannot be a replacement for a qualified mental health professional. If you are dealing with some serious trauma then please seek the appropriate professional help. Journaling can be a wonderful tool to use along with therapy but certainly cannot be a replacement for it if your situation calls for it.

Creativity

Give yourself creative permission

A while ago I took the Layers of Life Visual Journal workshop and one of the first things we were told to do in our journal was to give ourselves permission.

I love this and I think it’s something we don’t do enough of.

It might seem a bit unnecessary, maybe. You think, well of course I have permission to write in my journal, duh.

But have you given yourself permission to do all the things you want to do? To make a mess, to make mistakes, to cross things out and start again, to look foolish, to try new things, to dream of a better life – even start to take steps towards it?

Your journal can be a powerful tool if you give yourself permission to just be, however you want, inside it.

I’ve mentioned ad nauseam about my perfectionism, so for me giving myself permission to make a mess is a big deal. So many times I’ve started a journal and it’s not until halfway through that I’ve realised that I’m too afraid to make a mistake or do anything that risks not being pretty!

Not to mention I seem to unconsciously give myself rules each time I start a new journal – what I
can and cannot journal about in that journal, what type of journaling it will be, etc.

How freeing (and admittedly a little scary) it is to declare in the front of my journal that it can be for any damn thing I want it to be: writing, painting, stamping, collage, washi tape, watercolours, scribbles, stencils, sketches, doodles, prompts, stream-of-consciousness, lists, mindmaps, nonsense, ideas, dreams etc. WHATEVER!

So I urge you the next time you start a new journal – or heck, even in the middle of your journal right now – to dedicate a page to giving yourself permission.You could list the things you want to do, collage images, draw – whatever feels good and best represents the creative freedom you need.

Give yourself permission to do whatever feels good in your journal – in fact, in your life – whatever you need.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

The risk to blossom

 

Anais Nin famously said:

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

I love this quote, so much. It is only recently that I have come to realise that it is too painful for me to remain tight in a bud – I am now taking the risk to blossom.

I think this quote means that we stay in our comfort zones, we deny our true feelings and we try to protect ourselves.

Since starting a regular journaling routine, I have come to realise that I can blossom – it isn’t as scary or dangerous as it seems. I have all the courage I need inside.

Here are a few of the ways I used to ‘remain tight in a bud’:

  • Drinking
  • Watching a lot of television
  • Spending hours online
  • Napping
  • Overeating
  • Spending time with people I didn’t really care for, just so I wouldn’t have to be alone
  • Overworking, becoming exhausted
  • Denying that I had any control over my life
  • Shopping aimlessly
  • Dieting relentlessly
  • Perfectionism and procrastination

But now that I’ve created an ongoing dialogue with my true, authentic self through my daily journaling routine, I am finding the courage to ‘blossom’ in these ways:

  • Starting (and continuing) a creative practice
  • Experimenting with different art supplies and techniques, such as acrylic paint, watercolour, mixed media, crayons, pencils, pens, etc
  • Building a tiny house
  • Starting my own creative business
  • Acknowledging my deepest desires and daring to believe I can make them a reality
  • Sharing my work, my thoughts and ideas with others
  • Accepting myself as a flawed but deeply lovable human being
  • Quitting dieting

These are just a few of the ways I have sought to change my life over the past 6 months. Looking back now it seems like I’ve made quite a few big changes – most of them are internal. Most of them are shifts in my sense of courage, of determination. the external changes have naturally flowed on from there.

I can’t say it enough: it is the simple act of journaling each day that has allowed me to get to this point. It is the ongoing conversation with my true self, with my inner wisdom and courage. It is being awake in my life, rather than numbing my feelings through the things in the first list above.

So I challenge you: in what ways do you attempt to remain tight in a bud, and how can you find the courage to blossom?

Creativity

25 Days into the 100 Day Project: A reflection

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

It’s hard.

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

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

This is the first time I have blogged this consistently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

why I want to blog

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

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

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