Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: What lights you up?

We all get bogged down by the necessities of daily life – working to pay the bills and put food on the table, sitting in traffic, arguing with others, catching up on sleep, and trying to find time to exercise, and so on.

But what about finding time for the things that you really love?

If you’re exceptionally lucky, then you are one of few the people who manages to make a living doing what you love – you get to do it every day. But I would guess that most of us don’t fall into that category.

So it comes down to making time whenever possible (every day?) to do the things we love – be it knitting, meditation, learning a language, painting, hiking – whatever.

Sometimes, though, after doing all the necessary tasks of the day, we just don’t have the time/energy/resources to do these wonderful things.

I lived this way for years. I had an lesson 15interest in writing, in being creative in some form, and sharing that creativity with others. But I got so bogged down with working full time (or more, if you consider teachers also work on their weekends and evenings) and so exhausted that I could do little other than work. Sure, teachers get regular ‘holidays’, but after working non-stop for ten weeks, all I could do was sleep and try to rest (when I wasn’t marking piles of essays).

Perhaps it’s my own fault for going into teaching. I guess it doesn’t matter what I was doing, all that matters is that I wasn’t exploring the things I loved, the things I felt most pulled to.

I carried on this way for years. Slowly I became more negative, more depressed, more bitter and more cynical about life. I was disillusioned and felt that growing up sucked, basically. I felt like there was no joy in my life, nothing I was doing just for me.

Since taking Susannah Conway’s Journal Your Life course where we were encouraged to journal every day, I started to learn about what was missing from my life. I got back in touch with myself and reconnected with the parts of me that had been ignored. Mostly, that was my creativity.

But then I hit another road block: fear and resistance. It became abundantly clear through my daily journaling what I wanted to do – to write, to paint, to create, to share my work. I got back in touch with these desires, but for a while didn’t do much with them.

Why? Because I was afraid. I didn’t really believe I could start a blog, that was terrifying. And painting? I had no formal training, who was I to attempt painting, let alone share it with others?

It took a lot of hard work, mostly by working through it in my journal, but I found a way to feel the fear and create anyway. I found a way to admit what I really wanted and start taking steps towards it. I reasoned that the fear of taking these creative risks could be no worse than the terrible feelings of ignoring these desires.

Now my life looks a lot different. I have a regular daily creative practice that ensures I remain creatively fulfilled, and a regular journaling practice that means I know when I start to feel like something is missing from my life.

>>> Prompts:

What lights you up? List or brainstorm everything that absolutely makes your heart sing with joy. Are there some things you are afraid to write down? Why?

How often do you do the things on your list? Are there some that you don’t allow yourself to think of, or that you actively avoid? Why?

How can you make more time for the things on your list?

Fun bonus prompt: If you won the lottery and never had to work again, how would you ideally like to spend your days? Describe what a day would look like (after you did all the fun stuff, like shopping, travelling etc – what would your daily life look like?)

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: Not having all the answers

I recently turned 30.

Like most people (I think!), I spent most of my twenties trying to get it all ‘figured out’.

At 21 I left university, ready to start my ‘real’ life when I got my first job. I can’t describe the crushing disappointment that followed when my first ‘real’ job turned out to be the most mind-numbingly boring thing I’ve ever done, and I had to quit a few months later to work in retail while I figured out my next move. So much for starting my ‘real’ career.

What came next were a series of what I can only describe as life experiments: training as a secondary teacher for something to do while I figured out what I really wanted, loving then hating teaching so training as a life coach, quitting teaching to travel and study psychology, then back into teaching when that hit a dead end.

All the while I felt like such a failure, mainly because I didn’t really enjoy teaching but couldn’t quite figure out what else I wanted to do. I kept thinking, shouldn’t I have this sorted by now?

This was accompanied by lots of why my 20s were a bit of a messpartying and drinking as a way to escape (plus, aren’t your twenties supposed to be wild?) but that didn’t bring me much joy either.

And then I met my now-fiance. Finally, something going according to plan! But I watched as many people around me got married, had babies and got houses, while my boyfriend of 2, 3, 4 years still hadn’t so much as proposed.

What the hell was going on? I panicked as 30 loomed on the horizon, drawing nearer and nearer. I just wanted to have it sorted by my 30th. Surely by then I should have it figured out?

Well, yes and no. Sure, my boyfriend and I got engaged, bought property and are planning for our future. So I guess I can tick that one off. As for my career… well, I’m still in teaching, but since moving to part-time I’m enjoying it more.

And as for my ‘real’ career? Well, I don’t know. I’m passionate about creativity, journaling and writing, helping people, art… some of these skills get used as an English teacher but not all of them. I know I won’t be teaching forever, but I’ve yet to figure out what the next step will look like.

And you know what? That’s ok.

imageStrangely, I approached 30 with a genuine sense of contentment. Gone are the judgments towards myself about not figuring it all out, gone is the guilt at having ‘wasted’ my twenties (what does that even mean, anyway? I couldn’t possibly have gotten to this point without going through the experiences I have).

I’ve made peace with the fact that I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have to. It must come from growing up, I guess – when you’re young, you see life as black and white, and you think it should be easy enough. (I once had a student of mine, about age 14, remark in surprise that I wasn’t married with kids by age 26. She declared that she certainly would be by then. Yes, I once thought that too, love.) But once you get mired in the mess of becoming an adult, you start to see it’s not that straightforward. I think the only reason this causes pain is because we cling to that childish notion of having everything figured out.

So, on my 30th birthday, I celebrated having made it through the bumbling, awkward, disappointing, exhilarating and confusing ten years that were my twenties. Here’s to not having it all figured out!

>>> Prompts:

Try to think back to the way you imagined your adult life would look as a child/teenager/young adult. Do you feel in any way that you have let yourself down?

What are some of the judgments you have about how your life is now? What do you think ‘should’ be different but isn’t? Why?

What are some ways you could show more acceptance and contentment towards your current life?

What are some expectations or judgments you need to let go of?

Bonus prompt for those over 30: List ten ways that your life has been better in your thirties than your twenties!

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: Money and debt

I guess this is more of a practical topic, a bit different from the others.

But I can’t overstate how much better I feel when I have no debt, and money in the bank.

The more money I save and the less debt I have, the more I feel both secure and free. Secure in the sense that things can be taken care of, that I have more than enough. Free in the sense that I know if I really want to walk out of my job, or buy a plane ticket to somewhere else, I can.

It’s all about peace of mind.

My parents taught me from a young age how debilitating debt can be. Obviously some forms of debt are ok, like a mortgage that is manageable. But having ongoing car repayments, credit card bills, personal loans and so on can be like walking around in shackles. You can’t do much but work to repay the debt. Sometimes it’s necessary, like when your car breaks down and you have no money. But as much as possible, I avoid debt.

I value freedom a great deal. As soon as I feel trapped in some form, I start to feel myself wither.

I also value abundance and fear scarcity, which I think we are taught to do in our culture.

lesson 8It has been a really big deal for me to purchase a property recently, knowing that I am now stuck in one place with ongoing mortgage payments. But the payments are very low and easily manageable, which allows me the freedom to change my job or cut back my hours. Not only that, having my own land provides me with the freedom to build my own art studio and start working from home – something I couldn’t do while renting. So it’s about striking a compromise.

Now I’m focusing on getting more money in the bank to have a cushion of security for the future. Ultimately I’d like to work for myself full time, so each time I put aside a portion of my pay cheque, I know that I’m creating my future.

>>> Prompts:

Take a moment to think about your finances. How do you feel when you think about this? Are you satisfied and happy with your current financial situation?

If you’re not happy with your finances, how would you like things to be different? What can you do to make that happen?

For me, money represents freedom and security. What does money represent for you? It might be the same as me, or it might be luxury, fun, contribution, self-love, generosity, fear, scarcity, abundance, etc. Consider doing an art journal/visual spread about 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, Self Empowerment

Journal prompt: Don’t censor your dreams

The good thing about journaling over a long period of time is that you can look back and see how much you have changed and grown.

Today I was reading some journals I wrote around the time I was finishing high school. I had just been overseas to the USA and France for the first time and I was inspired about the possibilities for the future. I mentioned how much I would love to study film at the Tisch School of Arts.

And then, a line or so later I declared I couldn’t afforddont-censor-your-dreams it, and would have to stay and study in New Zealand, even though that wasn’t what I wanted.

In truth, I probably couldn’t afford it. But what if I had found a way? What if I had wanted it enough and dreamed so big that I made it happen? I could have borrowed money, worked for a year to save – done any number of things to make it happen.

But I just didn’t believe it was possible.

I can’t help but wonder what my life would look like right now if I had done it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m ok with where I am in my life, but I am acutely aware that the dissatisfaction I do feel is the result of short-changing myself – of censoring my dreams to make them more ‘acceptable’ and ‘realistic’.

When I look back on past journals I see big dreams – of becoming a scriptwriter and director, an author and a singer. I wrote about how much I wanted to move to New York to pursue my dreams.

Sure, I was a teenager, full of optimism and hope. It was ok to dream big back then because ‘the future’ was still far-off and existed only in my head.

The reality is that I didn’t have the courage to pursue these things. I didn’t believe, at my core, that I could really have them – so I settled.

I’ve mentioned before that I am currently planning a business with a friend. As part of the Right Brain Business Plan, we had to imagine our business as wildly successful, and describe what that would look like. We were both hesitant to say anything too ‘unrealistic’ – so we stated ‘realistic’ salaries, working hours, locations, etc.

dream-bigWhy did we do that? We are starting from scratch. We can have anything, build anything. Surely if we dream small we will only make something small?

Perhaps it is to do with disappointment – if we dream small then we can’t be disappointed. And if others hear of our plans, they won’t scoff or laugh or warn us that we aren’t being ‘realistic’. Nelson Mandela famously said:

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

Once I realised we were holding ourselves back, I said to my friend: let’s dream big. This is our business, our passion, our one chance to leave our mark on the world. Who cares what people will say, or if we end up disappointed. We have to risk it to achieve big. I am sick of playing small, of censoring my dreams. She agreed.

A part of me wishes I could go back to the young me and say: Be bold! Dream big!

But I needed to go down the path I have to learn what I know now. The only thing I can do now is to move forward boldly. To dream big.

>>> Prompts:

What were your biggest dreams as a child/teenager? You may like to look back through old journals/yearbooks etc to remind yourself.

Have you achieved those dreams, or are you in the process of doing that? If not, why not?

Can you think of what may have stopped you from moving towards them – perhaps a parent’s wishes, the words of a teacher, worrying about what your friends were doing, etc?

What is it that you really really really want now? Get really quiet and listen. Try free writing about this for a few minutes and see what comes up.

Do you feel any sort of resistance or words of warning about dreaming too big from your inner critic? If so, you could try writing a letter to your inner critic in your journal – thank them for their concern about you, but declare that you don’t need them to worry and state boldly and clearly what it is you want.

How can you start to move towards what it is that you really want?

Creativity

Don’t have time to journal? Think again

Sometimes we don’t have the time and space we need to be alone and journal. We may have the best of intentions but the universe puts obstacles in our way.

I like to think that these are little tests to see how committed we really are.

For a while I was getting up super early… but it wasn’t really working. I naturally need a reasonable amount of sleep, and I was struggling to get myself to bed by 9pm in order to get my 8 hours. I feel like my evenings are my time to be creative, play in my art journal, or spend time with loved ones.

I’ve been really reluctant to give my body the extra rest it needs by sleeping a bit later. Last week I started to get headaches and when I found myself contemplating a fifth cup of coffee one day I decided I just had to go with it.

But my journaling! I tried just working for a couple of days without journaling first – I thought, maybe I could journal in the evening? But it didn’t feel right. I didn’t start the day with the usual positivity and intention. I felt a little… directionless (if that’s a word).

I can’t exactly journal at my desk when I get to work because I have colleagues sitting next to me. Not exactly an environment conducive to pouring my deepest fears and desires onto the page. Plus, work is associated with, well, work. Not creativity.

As I mentioned I don’t actually have to be at work until close to 9am, so I found an unusual solution:

I journal in my car.

This way I can miss the bad traffic, but find a nice quiet place to pull over where I can write for a while before I get to work. Sure, it’s not ideal. But it’s better than not journaling at all! Given that my job is only short-term, this will work in the mean time.

At first I felt a little ridiculous pulling out my giant pencil-case in the front seat (it needs to be giant to fit my selection of pens and some washi tape).

But then I thought, who cares?

I reclined the seat, tucked my feet under me and just wrote. It was fine. I even brought coffee from home in a travel mug (bonus points to those who recognise the company logo on my coffee mug!).

The other thing I noticed is that a change in view is good. I can choose a different spot if I want a different view. I feel close to nature with trees and the rain just outside, but my car is warm. It’s still a personal space, and while I miss having my pup at my feet and burning my essential oil, it still gives me the time I need.

I’m talking about all this because I want to point out something:

Journaling can be done in many places.

I know I have talked about making a ritual out of your journaling but really if need be, it can be done when and wherever. If you’re stuck for space to be alone, why not try journaling in a cafe? You could always find a table in the corner or somewhere that you can get a little privacy. Or if you’re running between appointments and find you have a spare 30 minutes, you could journal in your car. Or in a park. Or a library. I’ve even heard of people journaling on the subway ride to work!

Find what will work for you. And if you need to, do something a little different. Don’t let life get in the way of your journaling.

How have you made more time to journal? Share in the comments.

Creativity

Overcoming my creative wall: Peek inside my new journal

I’ll be honest – I haven’t been feeling all that creative lately. I’ve been in a bit of a creativity rut.

As the school year wraps up and I’m slowing down, the tiredness from three and a half full terms has hit.

I’m still journaling most days, but creatively, I’ve hit a bit of a wall.

But you see, I want to create. I keep browsing instagram and looking at all these amazing art journals (I’m always inspired when looking at work by Samie Harding, Lisa Sonora, Mary Wangerin and Nichole Rae, to name a few) but I can’t bring myself to pick up my paintbrush.

The solution? Create a new journal (this seems to be a pattern with me…)

space for creativityBut this journal is all about using magazine images with words I find, and words I add, to create my own images. A kind of visioning/collage process. It takes away my inertia because there are ready-made images to work with.

I love looking through magazines to find images that inspire me. I’m careful about what I read, and I tend to be drawn to the same sorts of images time and again:

  • Landscapes, trees, gardens, nature – green
  • Water, sky – blue
  • Beds and pillows
  • Cups or tea or coffee, teapots
  • Books, handwriting, journals
  • Deskscapes
  • Bright colours
  • Crafty things like knitting, sewing, painting
  • Images of families
  • Simple, rustic houses – wood, stone, exposed beams, cosy fireplaces etc

At first I felt like this didn’t count as ‘creativity’ – but then I had a wee chuckle. Creativity is anything really. And besides, I’m taking images and arranging them in unique ways, with my own words and ideas. The images are really just a building block.

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I want to get back into painting and I will when I’m rested and open to it. For now, playing with these words and images is soothing my creative urges.

How do you break out of a creativity rut?

What Inspires Me

Hope street

Today I went for a walk with a friend. We were talking about the creative business we will soon be launching, our biggest dreams and hopes for the future.

We were talking about where we want to be this time next year; what changes we want to make over the next 12 months to make our dreams come true.

We dared to imagine what our lives could look like if our business plans came true.

I explained the changes I was making in my own work life – some of which have taken courage and are scary. But I’ve been trusting my intuition to lead me. I’ve been letting my inner wisdom guide me.

As we walked, a beautiful monarch butterfly caught my eye, dancing through the early evening sun’s rays.

Every time I see one of these butterflies I think of Wayne Dyer and the amazing story from his book Inspiration. He believes that butterflies are a sign from the divine. I love this. Each time I see one, I take it as a sign from the divine that I am on the right path.

It was perhaps a coincidence that I saw the butterfly as we spoke about this. But I prefer to see it as a sign.

And then, I saw a literal sign – for a street:

Hope Street.

Again, a possible coincidence. In truth, I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in synchronicity. Meaningful coincidence.

There is no coincidence. Only the illusion of coincidence – V for Vendetta

And I didn’t even want to go walking, really. But by keeping my eyes and my heart open as we walked, I found myself receiving tiny messages from the universe. Tiny nods to keep going.