Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Nobody expects me to be perfect but me

I think this should be the mantra of every perfectionist.

How did I get it into my head that I have to be perfect? Because when I stop to think about it, this lesson is so very true – no one else expects perfection from me, just as I don’t expect perfection from anyone else.

But when it comes to myself – my own work, my own appearance, my own life – I want it to look and be perfect. Of course, no one else looks at me with such high standards.

Unconsciously trying to be perfect is one of the things that stops me from even starting things.

When I look back now, I done somethingrealise there are so many things I’ve not done simply because I feared I couldn’t do them perfectly, even if that fear was unconscious at the time (as I think it often is). I’ve started novels, paintings, classes, careers, hobbies of all kinds, only to give up when it became clear that I wasn’t doing it perfectly.

Like my novel – I gave up because it didn’t seem good enough so it sort of felt like, what’s the point? But imagine if I’d finished it! I would have a complete novel by now if I’d kept going. It wouldn’t be perfect but it would be done.

Perfectionism is very limiting in my creativity but also in other areas of my life – how I look, speak, behave etc. I find I am often judging myself against some self-created, unreasonably high standards.

So I try to remind myself – the only person who expects perfection from me, is me. And if that’s the case, maybe I can change my expectations of myself?

>>> Prompt:

What does perfectionism mean to you? What would it mean to you if you were perfect? In what ways do you expect perfection of yourself? How attainable is this, really?

What have you put off, quit or not even attempted because of a fear of not doing it perfectly?

If you were to embrace the beauty of mess and mistakes, what could you do?

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

How to journal when you don’t know what to say

Sometimes I just feel like journaling. I just want to pick up my journal and my pen (and my washi tape and other bits and pieces) and play in my journal.

Although I do love to use paints, stickers and washi tape to decorate my journal pages, my main focus in my journal is often writing.

And some days I sit down with my journal and I have nothing to say.

Or, at least, I start out thinking I have nothing to say. Usually once I put pen to paper and ease into it, I find myself talking about all kinds of things. Often I end up writing about something that I had no idea I would even talk about.

But we all need somewhere to start.

It can be daunting opening a fresh page and thinking, ‘I want to write’ or worse, ‘I should write’ – but not knowing how to begin.

Anais Nin (a journaling legend) offers this advice:

Put yourself in the present. This was my principle when I wrote the diary – to write the thing I felt most strongly about that day. Start there and that starts the whole unravelling, because that has roots in the past and it has branches into the future… I chose the event of the day that I felt most strongly about, the most vivid one, the warmest one, the nearest one, the strongest one.

I love this. I think sometimes we feel that an entry into our journals needs to reveal some profound truth, or be really deep. But it is the normal moments of each day that make up our lives.

Choose something that stood out to you today, for whatever reason. It might be as simple as sitting in the sun with a cup of coffee, laughing with a colleague, or taking a hot shower after a long day.

It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it warm, near or strong – to you.

It can be harder to follow this advice if you are writing first thing in the morning, in which case you are usually starting fresh, without the events of the day to guide you. You could recall the events of the previous day, or you could start where you are.

In A Voice of Her Own, Marlene A. Schiwy suggests using a basic Gestalt exercise to begin: write for ten minutes on each of the following starters:

‘I feel… I need… I want’.

It might not seem like much but these simple starters can open up to much deeper ideas.

If you are using this first thing in the morning, you could use these prompts to guide you for the day ahead – how you feel in the morning, and how you’d like to feel later in the day. What you need to do that day to feel fulfilled or satisfied (avoid using this as a chance to make another to-do list: most of us do that enough!). You could list what you want from the day to come.

In either case, the idea of starting with today, or right now, is the best way to begin.

You don’t always have to know what you will say when you journal – you just have to start where you are and let the words find you.

Creativity

Journal prompt: What’s stopping you?

whats stopping you

This week’s prompt is inspired by something I casually wrote into my journal, without giving it much thought.

And then, I began to wonder… what is stopping me? Because it certainly wasn’t nothing.

On closer inspection, I realised that fear, being too busy, being overly tired and keeping myself distracted were a few of the answers.

So I encourage you to answer this prompt in either your written journal, or represent it visually: What’s stopping you?

 

Creativity

How to deal with creative overwhelm

If you’re anything like me, you love to be creative. You seek out new sources of inspiration. You devour blog posts, courses, books, stationery and art supplies – anything and everything that fuels that creative fire inside you. If you’re not careful, while this can lead to overwhelm.

Lately I’ve been noticing, well… it’s a bit much. I feel a bit like a creative butterfly, flitting from one thing to the next. Or maybe I’m more like a creative magpie, always drawn to the next shiny thing.

Either way, I find I have trouble sticking with one thing before I get excited about the next.

Before long, I’ve signed up for fifteen online courses, ordered six new sets of stamps, bought eight new rolls of washi tape, got five new books on journaling, started three new journals and yet somehow I suddenly feel a bit creatively stuck.

Why? I’m experiencing creative overwhelm.

What is creative overwhelm?

I define it as being so excited and inspired by everything you see that you are unable to focus on just one, or a few, things. You sign up for lots of courses, buy lots of books, collect lots of art supplies – all to feed that creative hunger inside you.

You decide that along with written journaling, you want to try art journaling too. And collage. What about stamp carving? Before long, you’re drawn to hand lettering. And scrapbooking. And it might be fun to get a few pen pals. And you love the look of the planners you see online, so you’ll get one of those too. And there’s so many supplies you want to buy – and techniques you want to try!

But instead of feeling inspired, you feel a bit overwhelmed and exhausted. Your creative space is in disarray. You’re feeling pulled in lots of directions.

Suddenly, it’s too much.

Why is it a problem?

You might be thinking – too many creative outlets? Too much inspiration? No, that’s not an issue.

But I’ve found that when I take time out to create, I don’t know where to begin. I could do this, or that. But what supplies do I use? Which project am I working on? Do I feel like writing, or glueing, or painting, or stamping, or spraying, or stenciling, or – nothing at all?

It’s easy enough to let resistance and fear stop you from creating so the last thing you need is more reason to hesitate when sitting down to create.

It can be hard to make time to be creative, so when you finally have 30 minutes or an hour, you don’t want to battle an overcrowded space and then have to decide between many projects. You don’t need anything else to make it difficult to get creating.

Not only that, I’ve noticed that I feel as though I never complete anything. I don’t get a sense of achievement with a project because I get distracted by the next thing. That’s if I do much work on it at all – the more overwhelmed I am, the easier it is to just flick the TV on instead.

I’ve been on a mission to tackle creative overwhelm in my life so that I can get creating without resistance, distraction or avoidance. In fact, my word for 2015 was ‘focus’ so that I could be guided to stay on my path.

Here’s what I found helpful.

1. Prioritize: Pick a focus (or a few)

Decide what it is that is most important, most exciting, most rewarding for you right now. What are you really wanting to achieve, to make progress with?

You may be excited to sign up for a new course you’ve heard about, but what about the courses you’re already enrolled in? You may have ideas for a new novel, but what about the novel you’re already working on?

Remember: you aren’t obligated to do anything and you can change your mind if something is not working. It’s just that you’re wanting to pick something that is truly rewarding you can continue with, in order to see real progress.

If you’re enrolled in a course (or courses) or you’re reading a book (or books) or using supplies that aren’t fulfilling you – then stop. You don’t have to continue with them because you think you should. This isn’t a chance for you to beat yourself up. It is a chance for you to find what really lights you up and hone in on it.

I found it especially helpful to make a huge list of all the things that are on my ‘creative radar’ at the moment. This includes all the books, courses, supplies, audios, email subscriptions, workbooks, journals, and so on. I got it all out on paper in front of me, then I highlighted the few things that were most important, right now.

In the meantime, I have the list of other things and I can always come back to it if I want to later. If I come across a new course or book I want to explore – instead of diving in, I note down the name on the list for later.

2. Clear your creative space

Set aside some time to unclutter your desk, organise your supplies and clear some (literal) creative space. A cluttered environment can contribute to feelings of overwhelm.

Make sure the supplies you use most often are within easy reach. If there are some you’re not so interested in right now, then maybe put them in a box somewhere else. Make it easy to reach for your supplies without having to decide between crayons/acrylics/watercolour/pencils/markers each time you open a page. Pick one or two to focus on for a while – it is actually believed that setting creative limits can spark creativity.

Make sure your creative space feels inviting. If you have an old vision board that’s been sitting there for months, it might be time to refresh that. If you’ve got a bunch of old candles, maybe choose your favourite and put it out ready for the next creative session. Place an inspiration or oracle card somewhere you will see it whenever you sit down. Make sure there is a big, clear, space for you to make your next creative mess.

If your creative space is stuffed with books, choose the one or two that you’re most interested in right now. Take the others and put them somewhere else – back on the shelf, in a box, whatever. Have the one you’re focusing on right there in front of you.

And hopefully it goes without saying that you should do a quick tidy up at the end of each creative session, so your space stays inviting. Everything should have a place, so that it’s easy to tidy up.

3. Hit ‘unsubscribe’

This is a biggie for me. I get so excited each time I find a new blog about journaling or art journaling or anything creative that I race to put my email address in the ‘subscribe’ box. I want the free ebook and the newsletter. I want the journal prompts and tips and I don’t want to miss out.

But in truth… I’m subscribed to too many things. I actually don’t read the emails I get most of the time. I don’t do the prompts, I don’t use the tips. I can’t read the ebook because I have 36 other books waiting to be read.

Instead, I tend to go through my inbox and mark everything as read, without reading most of it. But I’m reluctant to unsubscribe, because I don’t want to miss out.

This is ironic, because in subscribing for everything and not reading any of it I’m actually missing out on a lot!

What if I subscribed to just one or two that I really loved? And then savoured each email, did the prompts, and waited for the next update? In reality, this would be so much more rewarding and help to decrease some of these feelings of overwhelm.

Try this: go through your inbox and see what you actually read. How many promotional emails, newsletters, courses and so on do you receive but practically ignore? And which are the ones you really look forward to getting? Do an inbox cull and unsubscribe from anything that doesn’t make your heart sing, that you don’t look forward to getting.

Worried about missing out? Add the website/book/mailing list to the list you made earlier of the things you’re interested in. You can always come back to it later. Alternatively, follow the blog through a service like Bloglovin to stay updated but still have control of your inbox.

4. Use whatever tools you need to help you stay on track

I love books. I collect books on creativity, blogging, journaling, art journaling…and when I don’t buy books, I get them out from the library. Last week I had 19 books out from the library. Even I can’t read that many.

I find that I don’t so much read my books as I do collect them. But I want to read them. I want to learn from them, be inspired by them. So I’ve come up with a solution: a reading journal.

I note down the ONE book I’m currently reading, the date I began, and then take notes on the things that inspire me as I read. As a writer this is crucial to my reading process. Then when I finish, I note the date I finished reading. This helps me to feel a sense of achievement, and I also have a whole collection of ideas for blog posts and other writing.

When I am finished one book, I begin the next. In the back I keep a running list of the books I want to read. I do NOT buy or loan them until it is time to start reading that book. One at a time!

This tool helps to keep me on track with reading and enjoying my books. You may use a similar tool, or come up with something else entirely. What matters is that you do what you need to do to keep on track. You may put reminders up in your creative space. You may start the day by listing your MITs (most important tasks). You may publicly blog about your project so you’re accountable.

Use whatever tool you have to use to keep you on track.

Oh, and I returned 18 of the library books so I can focus on the one I’m most interested right now. Progress!

*  *  *

I hope this has in some way been helpful to someone. I hate feeling overwhelmed because it makes me shut down and puts a huge wall between me and my creative expression. I’ve found that by setting limits and getting creatively clear, I’m so much more inspired!

Creativity

Keeping your creative focus

 

Sometimes I get so many ideas that I can’t focus on just one. I get really inspired and feel myself being pulled in a hundred different directions.

I start new journals, come up with new blog ideas, buy new art supplies, sign up for new courses… only to find those initial feelings of inspiration giving way to feelings of overwhelm.

When I finally get a moment to myself to spend doing my own thing, I feel paralysed by indecision. Do I finally start writing the novel I’ve been planning? Or do I break out my new stencils? Or maybe I should be planning the e-book for my new blog? Or art journaling in one of my many art journals? Or journaling in my written journal? Or blogging on this blog? Or, or or…

It all becomes a bit much.

As much as I love feeling inspired and creative, I find myself with 15 different projects that are unfinished, abandoned for the next thing. This is no way to make progress!

In her book Renaissance Souls, Margaret Lobenstine explores people like me – what she calls, ‘people who have too many passions to pick just one’. I am so one of these people! I quickly move from one thing to the next, easily bored and distracted by something new that’s caught my eye.

The thing is, I would really like to finish something that I start. I want to finish writing my novel. I want to develop a blog to the point that it’s financially successful (which is not likely to happen if I keep getting distracted by coming up with ideas for new blogs).

In other words, I want to focus my attention and get results on the few things that are really important to me.

Lobenstine suggests picking three or four ‘focal points’ – these are the areas of interest that you choose to focus your attention. I think this is especially helpful advice for someone like me who, without limits, could easily have 10-15 different projects on the go at once. Four sounds good. Four sounds like I will actually have time and energy to focus and achieve something!

So right now I’m working on eliminating distractions and choosing the areas that are most important for my attention.

Journaling is an extremely helpful tool to remind ourselves of what is important, what we most want to focus on. It can also be a good way to remind ourselves by reading back through past entries. I’ve found that while sometimes my priorities have changed, often I’ve just gotten distracted and not followed through on what really mattered to me.

How do you remain focused on the things that are important to you?

Creativity

New art journal – an altered book

I’ve started a new art journal, and I wanted to share what I’m doing. As a journal lover, a writer and an avid reader, I’ve been really fascinated with the idea of altered books.

I recently came across this neat old French text-book when clearing out a really old cupboard at school. I think it’s from the 1970s. It’s fantastic as an altered journal because the pages are sewn, not stapled, so they will hold up well. It is sturdy and bound well, and the paper is quite thick.

Most of the writing is in French, but there is some English inside, plus lots of interesting pictures of Paris and other French things I can incorporate into future journal pages.

The reason I’m creating this altered book journal in addiction to my other art journals is because I need something low-stakes I can make a mess in. It cost me nothing and there are lots of pages I can play with. I simply slap on a coat of gesso, then set about using my gelli plate, paints, stamps, stencils, washi tape and pens to play.

My other art journals are a bit more precious, and I find myself wanting to create something that is pretty, rather than actually playing and exploring different media. I felt like I needed a place I could make a mess and be ok with it.

This, of course, is going to be a pretty strong theme throughout!

I want this journal to be sort of like a normal journal in that I can explore and express how I’m feeling at the time, but visually. I’m new to art journaling so I’m just trying to teach myself various techniques and things as I go. But, the point is, to keep doing. Keep making a mess, because from that mess comes something interesting.

Here are a few pages I’ve made so far, and a few close-ups on details I particularly like.

make-mistakes

butterfly-play

an-essential-aspect-of-creativity-close-up

create-be-fearless

i-wish-to-be-fearless

the-time-is-now

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?