We all have art wounds. Many art wounds stem from our childhood and we have been carrying them deep in our creative souls ever since. It could be something someone said carelessly once, or even a look they gave.
As adults, I believe a part of the creative process is to recover from these art wounds. An effective way is to journal about how you sustained that art wound, and then focus our attention on what would’ve helped rather than hurt you in that situation.
This is a tough set of journaling prompts to get through. It will dig deep into your wounds that you’ve been nursing for so many years. However, by the time you are done with these three questions, you will have new tools to help you recover from them so it is totally worth sticking with it. Just remember to be gentle, but firm, and bust through them.
Journaling Prompts to Beat Your Art Wounds
1. Write about a time in your childhood when you felt a strong calling to do something creative, but then was wounded by someone.
Think back to a time when a creative interest or a project felt like you were destined to do it. You were super excited that you found this thing, and you were raring to go. But then someone said or did something that wounded you and you never picked it up again.
2. What art wound did you sustain from this interaction?
Write a list of wounding messages you received from this event about your creativity. Be gentle, these are not the truth. These were just the messages you got from this one person who was most likely acting out of fear or their own art wounds.
3. What would’ve been a more helpful action the said person could’ve taken? What would’ve been a positive message? What would’ve helped you?
Write about an alternate reaction this person could’ve given you if they were acting from a place of genuine love to you. What would’ve showed you that your creativity was important and should be cherished? What would’ve told you that what you create is amazing and unique without any correction or advice needed?
If you struggle imagining them being that kind to you, try this alternate exercise. Think back to a time when you have said or done the same thing to someone you care about. As much as we don’t want to and even to those we care about the most, we subconsciously pass on our art wounds to others. Please try not to judge yourself that you have passed on this art wound. Just focus on that particular time. Now, coming from a place of love and compassion for your loved one, what do you think would’ve helped them more? What could you have said to them that would’ve been encouraging rather than wounding?
We can’t take back art wounds. We can’t just forget them. But we can write new endings to old stories. Although those people who wounded us are not here to apologise or take back what they said, we can replace them with ourselves and guide each art wound into healing.
Next time you hear this particular art wound rearing its head again, remember what you wrote on prompt number 3. What would be helpful to your creativity? What loving, encouraging message could you say to yourself? What action could you take that would show how important your creativity is? Then do or say that thing, to yourself, for yourself.
Do you feel that your journaling isn’t taking you where you want to go? Do you feel that you’d like a deeper experience within your pages but feel stuck at the shallow end?
This morning, I was journaling about some heavy stuff. I didn’t start off intending to get that deep. I was answering a journaling prompt from Wild Women, Wild Voices by Judy Reeves. I was writing about all the things my mum has done in my childhood that was harmful to my creativity. Quiet a raw subject to write about, but one that is doable at a push to write honestly.
Then, without any warning, the journaling suddenly got scary. As I was outlining each thing I deemed as the thing my mum did wrong, I realised I have been doing those exact same things to my husband. That was a scary realisation. I wanted to turn away from it. I saw the dark side of me and I wanted to run away from it, never to look back. Maybe if I ran away fast enough from it, it never existed.
My body started to tighten. I was breathing heavily, then not breathing at all. My throat closed up. I started to yawn. I felt unusually hungry. My head was spinning. All I wanted to do was to get up, and walk away from these pages that exposed me for who I was.
Learn to spot the resistance, and have the courage to step through it.
This is the sign of resistance. This is the sign that you just arrived at a very important point in your journaling. If you can walk through this, you will come to some deeply loving, compassionate realisations that will genuinely help you.
However, every cell in your body is telling you to run. To get away from this horrible experience. The need for you to walk away from this at this moment will feel so genuine that it feels like you will die if you don’t walk away. That something terrible will happen if you continued writing. That your life will collapse in on itself if you keep at it. Or it might feel the complete opposite, that this is so utterly pointless, or you will notice something that, all of a sudden, really needs to be attended to, way more than your journaling.
As I yawned and eased apart muscle cramps that were happening all over my body, I carried on writing. At some points, all I could write was ‘oh god, this is awful. Oh god, oh god, oh god’, but I carried on writing. I wanted to give up this writing session on every single line of that page, but I carried on.
Then a question appeared in my head. What if I could write about what my mum should’ve done back then that would’ve genuinely helped my creative journey? Wouldn’t those same thing apply to my husband’s creative journey?
Yes, yes it would. Then, another wave of resistance rode in. Writing the things that would’ve helped me back then was so hard. Kept on writing. One by one, slowly and with much resistance, the better approach came out. Things that would help, not harm, my husband’s blossoming creativity. Things that were from a place of love, rather than from a place of fear and control. Things that is going to be very hard for me to implement in my interactions with my husband but one that ultimately, I will be so much more at peace with.
Everyone’s resistance will look very different. My husband has what we call his resistance yawn. I tend to get cramps on my ribs and arms. Sometimes the resistance will be very different depending on what you are writing about. When your journaling starts to get hard, and all you want to do is walk away, try paying attention to what your body is going through.
Then remind yourself that, as much this feels genuinely like you are dying, this is just resistance. This is the big neon sign that is telling you gold is just on the other side of this. If you can take that step through to the other side of the resistance, your journaling practice will give you understanding, knowledge and peace that comes from such a deep, loving place. It will take your journaling so much deeper than you ever thought possible.
After a one-month break from journaling, I picked up my pen again yesterday to continue with my journaling practice. I sat down at my desk in Tokyo and started to write my three pages of Morning Pages. I had assumed that this was going to be like any other Morning Pages, just a brain dump of mundane things. I was totally wrong.
What happened in that first page was this. There was a situation that was frustrating me that morning. It wasn’t a big situation, or even a situation at all. But what came out on the page was a whole lot of anger I was not expecting. Venom might be the accurate word for it. So much more anger, resentment and frustration than it was even conceivable to me.
Over the last few years of regularly doing Morning Practice, I had been able to release the little stresses that comes in our everyday lives by writing a little ranty paragraph about each of them on a daily basis. I rant then let go. However, after a whole month away from this practice, I realised I had built up a many pockets of negative emotions that had nowhere to go but inside me for a whole month. Now that I was journaling again, the whole lot just came out in one go.
That first page was so uncomfortable to write. I would stop after each hateful line and be in the shock of having written something so mean. I would guilt myself on what a person I am for even thinking of such an awful line, let alone have the audacity to write it down. I would put down my pen in order to just walk away from this horrible experience. I would have to stretch out muscles that had started to cramp up from the emotional discomfort.
Pain of Starting to Journal
Thankfully, I knew I must keep writing all these shameful thoughts, so that they were out of my system. I knew this was my release mechanism and that I don’t really truly mean what I write. I am not a bad person. I am just frustrated with something and writing them down is my healthy way of releasing this energy. Better in a journal than at a real person.
But what if you don’t know that? What if you don’t yet have the experience in journaling to deeply know to ‘trust the system’? What if you have built up a life-time of anger, fear, frustration and resentment with no way of releasing it before now? Well, that is a deep, dark, scary place indeed.
One of the biggest challenges I hear from people who are starting out in journaling is that they find it so hard because of all the negativity that comes up. Good, hardworking, dedicated people who want to really commit to journaling soon find themselves knee-deep in this deep dark place. There’s no quick relief either. Past wounds and scars keep coming up and those are all that seem to come up. Happy memories and inspiring goals seem so far away. Every time they bravely show up to the page, more endless god-awful pain and suffering is all that show up.
I know this pain. I’ve totally been there. I’ve failed to learn to journal so many times because of this dark space where you need to get all that pain out, but you are nowhere near healing. A place where all you can write is all that stuff you were sure you had dealt with already and didn’t want to deal with it. The hopelessness you feel because ‘enjoying journaling’ seems so far away. This isn’t fun. This is serious emotional pain and you really don’t have the time to keep putting yourself through it. You have a house to run, jobs to go to and kids to keep alive.
If, at the time, someone had said to me ‘oh you just have to keep writing, it’ll get better’, I think I would’ve punched them in the face (in my mind only, of course). That’s not what you need to hear when you are faced with the most cutting of ghosts from your past. I don’t have a quick cure – you do have to write through the pain. What I can share though are things that helped me get through that initial painful stage of stepping into journaling.
After many failed attempt to regularly journal, I finally managed to get into it four years ago. The thing I can attribute to making it happen for me was being on an on-line journaling course (Susannah Conway’s Journal Your Life course, no affiliation). It was the kind of journaling course that wasn’t about digging up the painful past and leaving you in it. Yes it did do some digging from the past, but it managed to always bringing towards something positive about your future. What’s more, majority of the course focused on the you now and the future and not so much on the past. It was more about getting to know who you are now, and who you want to become.
I think being on this course was what helped me get through that initial dark stage of journaling. Yes I was still writing some very painful stuff and a whole lot of ugly in my morning pages. They were so sad and depressing to write about. I filled two whole Moleskine notebooks with the painful stuff. However, after the highly uncomfortable Morning Pages were written, I would turn to the course and starting working on that day’s prompt. It would get me to take a break from the past and focus on what I wanted for myself now.
After that course ended, I started another online course (this one unfortunately is no longer available) that was about digging deep to find what I wanted to really do in my work. How perfect! The two courses together, totally 12 weeks of daily positive support, helped me tremendously in getting me through the initial painful stage of getting into regular journaling.
It’s All About the Balance
I do think in journaling we need to do both – look into our past, and into our future. You look only into your past and there’s no room to take what you learn from them into somewhere useful. Look only into the future and you won’t ever find out that future never seem to happen. It makes sense that if you only have painful, negative, experiences in your journal, you are quickly going to get sick of journaling. In order for us to journal continuously, it’s important to tend to the balance of our experience within our journal.
Of course it doesn’t have to be a course. It could be an inspirational book that you can dip into each day to bring more lightness, love and future-focused look to your journaling. Our hearts need the balance of the painful past and the fertile future. Here are some of the things I use to bring the future-focused positive influence into my journaling. (I have no financial affiliations with any of them, they are courses and books that has just helped me so much.)
Art books of my favourite artists – helps me focus on what I want to create.
The books and courses that will help you will be different for each person. Have fun and start gathering an army of supporters that will help pick you up when journaling gets tough going. Try referring to them and working on those for each day that you journal about something painful. Tender the balance of your journaling experience.