Category Archives: Creative Practice

Journaling Prompts to Beat Art Wounds

25th January 2016

Journaling Prompts to Beat Art Wounds

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?

Healing Yourself

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.

First month of being back home

26th September 2015

It’s been one month since we have returned home from a year and half of travelling around the world. I thought it was going to be hard to get settled back down into ‘normal’ life again, how wrong was I!

I am LOVING being back at home. I am loving being back in Edinburgh. I am loving staying in one place and nesting. I think it helps that it’s September and I naturally want to start nesting come autumn. One of the things I discovered about myself in our travelling was that I need autumn. Last year, we spent all of autumn season in warmer countries and never really went through autumn. I felt totally off-kilter because I missed out on autumn. I intensely missed seeing the leaves turn into rich yellows and vivid reds.

Life at home has been surprisingly busy. It’s good to be busy rather than have too much time and start missing being on the move. There has been a lot of changes to our lives at home this month, all good and very exciting.

My own studio

Converted a living room into a studio. http://journalingsage.com

The first thing we did when we got home was to convert the living room into my studio, proper. I am in love with this room. I get up at 5:30am each day to write, but when I get to be in THIS room, I don’t mind. I feel at home most when I am surrounded by bookcases. It’s lovely to have all my filled journals out on bookshelves too. There is something so inspiring about seeing all your filled journals. It inspires me to write even more.

A bigger journal

Going back to a larger notebook - Leuchtturm1917. http://journalingsage.com

A nice side effect of not having to live out of a 30 litre backpack is that I can choose to use bigger things! I’ve gone from writing in my small pocket journals to writing in A5 notebooks again. The first one I cracked open was this limited edition Leuchtturm1917 in gold (you can still get them online). This notebook is beautiful. I love Leuchtturms above all other notebooks, but the gold and silver editions are extra special. It has two bookmark ribbons, which are both gold themed and much thicker than the normal versions. Even the address box at the front and the labels are in gold. It’s simply gorgeous.

Going back to the bigger notebook size has been a welcomed change. You can develop ideas in more details. I can keep more information in one notebook. They feel amazing to flip through the filled pages because there’s just so much more of your work in it.

Reunited with my notebooksNotebooks bought from all over Europe on our travels this year. http://journalingsage.com

As you know, I bought a lot of notebooks on our Europe trip this summer. I’d been posting them from each city to a dear friend of mine who had kindly kept countless parcels for me. It was a beautiful trip down memory lane to be united with them once again. As I opened each parcel, I stroked each notebook and talked with my husband about which shop we went to buy each notebook.

I was also reunited with my travel journals and travel scrapbooks. My favourite is absolutely the purple Italian Il Papiro gorgeousness of a notebook that I filled with stuff from Florence and Venice. I leafed through each page carefully, stroking sugar bags and postcards I collected.

Starting up a business

Working through the Right-brain business plan book. http://journalingsage.com

The biggest change since we’ve returned home is that both James and I are starting up businesses. We are each starting up a separate and very different businesses, but it has been wonderful to go through the process together. It’s not so scary when there are two of you doing it.

I’m going to dive in and take my passion for journaling as far as I can go. I am filled with ideas and it’s time I trust them and make them come to life. It’s exciting, it’s scary, but I am brave and I accept the challenge! First thing I will be doing is opening up an Etsy shop, in late October. I will keep you updated on its progress.

Postcrossing

postcrossing postcards sent out this week. http://journalingsage.com

Now that we are staying in one place, I’m finally able to join Postcrossing. It’s a site where you can send postcards to people, and a bunch of different people send you postcards. As an introvert needing a lot of time by myself and find friendships hard work, this model works well for me. I love that I can send and receive postcards, without the pressure of having to maintain penpal friendships.

So far, I’ve sent 11 postcards and received 1 postcard. It’s very enjoyable to spend the time finding a postcard that would be perfect for each person from my out-of-control collection of postcards. I’ve so far send postcards to USA, Russia, Germany, Portugal, China, Poland, Finland, Czech Republic, Belarus, and Netherland.

Postcrossing has a different energy to when I write my daily postcards to my mum. With my mum, what I write to her is more important than what image postcard I send her. It’s also about writing something to her everyday to let her know that I am thinking about her even if she is on the other side of the world. With Postcrossing, what postcard image you send to the person is much more important, and what you write is less important. It’s a quick hi to someone, just once, for the joy of sending postcards.

One Month

It’s been a hectic month, but I am so happy to be back home and doing all this. It’s a huge change from our travelling, but it feels just as nourishing, scary and exciting. I guess that means we finished our travelling at the right time. I am really grateful for that.

What have you been up to this month? What big changes are in motion for you?

Morning Pages making you miserable?

17th September 2015

Morning Pages making you miserable? http://journalingsage.com
Morning Pages requires huge commitment and dedication to start and keep doing. It’s a lot of work to get up an hour early and sit down to write three pages by hand every morning. So it’s natural to want all that effort to make you feel better. You want it to make you feel better straight away after you’ve invested so much into it.

Unfortunately, for many people, Morning Pages doesn’t make them feel better straight away. In fact, it can sometimes make you feel downright miserable. Or at least make them feel worse than they did before they started writing the Morning Pages and really put a negative spin on their whole morning.

Are these people doing Morning Pages wrong? Is Morning Pages not working for them? No. What is true however, is that wanting instant uplift of mood is the wrong thing to seek in Morning Pages.

Morning Pages have never claimed to be therapy. Morning Pages have never claimed to make you feel better straight away. What it claims to do is give you a garbage dumping space for your mind so you can gain the space to create beautiful things. A space where you can empty your mind on a daily basis so all that clutter can just sit aside and let your creativity have some much needed space.

Let me ask you a question. Do you think having to walk through a garbage dumping ground would make you feel instantly better afterwards? No. You feel gross, you feel sick, you feel down for having to wade through all that rotting garbage. However, you do feel better by the time you get home, and you start appreciating how beautifully un-stinky your home is, and how great it looks without rotting food everywhere. Morning Pages is a bit like that.

In Morning Pages, we must dig up the dirt that is cluttering our brain. Dare I say, dirt and garbage that we have been holding onto because it’s easier to hold onto garbage than give birth to what our creativity wants us to create. Letting those garbage bags go isn’t easy. We have to face the fact that we have been holding onto these hurts, anger and frustrations in our mind. When all those things comes out on the page, it can make us feel pretty horrible. It’s easy to feel like I am a bad person because I’ve filled the whole three pages with rants about how someone has annoyed me. It also means I will have to go and make that thing I’ve been avoiding making all this time. These two things are not the ingredients for feeling instantly uplifted, but they are the crucial ingredients in gaining creative happiness.

How then, can we have a better relationship with Morning Pages so that we don’t feel it’s doing us more damage than good? How best to let our mind clutter out without the act ruining our morning? How can we walk through a garbage heap without the stink getting onto our clothes? I think there are two things we can do.

It’s all temporary

Trust that this discomfort is temporary. When you feel uncomfortable after writing your Morning pages, don’t fight it. It’s okay. What you are feeling, and what you are going through is a natural result of letting all that clutter out of your head. Don’t get angry at you or anything else for feeling this discomfort. Trust that this is normal, nothing unexpected (and it really is normal), and quit beating yourself up about having these feelings.

Gently remind yourself that this discomfort is temporary and that you won’t feel like this forever. That you feeling the anger, sadness, frustration or any other negative emotions is not a reflection on you, your life, or your creativity. It’s just a necessary part of making more room for your creativity.

Ask a question

Dumping all our mind clutter alone won’t make you feel better. In their session with clients, counsellors and personal coaches let their client talk all about what is bothering them. Then they ask a very critical series of questions:

  • How does it make you feel?
  • What do you need?
  • What do you need to do to feel better about this?

These questions are incredibly helpful in gently guiding your mind from the negative emotions associated to the situation, to  something that is empowering and positive. You feel in control, and there is something you can do. Or you realise there is nothing you can do so there’s no point in holding on to this issue right now. Either way, you get to let go of the negative emotions, and feel a whole lot better.

Next time you are feeling the Morning Pages dragging you down, or you are sick of writing about negative things, ask one of the questions and see what your mind lets you know. It might not make you feel brilliant on the first go, but if you are persistent at asking these questions when you want to change up the mood, you will soon find Morning Pages to be a place where you can solve issues, rather than just talk about them.

Clearing up a misunderstanding

30th March 2015

Journaling vs. writing http://journalingsage.com

Last week I posted the above photo on my instagram. It’s a photo of all the journals I filled in the last two and half months. I was stoked to have filled as many journals in that time and posted it in excitement. What I didn’t think through properly was how it would make someone feel bad about how few journals they have filled in comparison. Then my dear friend Jen of jouralwild.com pointed something out to me. I did not make it clear to everyone that writing in my notebooks is my full-time job.

Full-time job

I consider writing in my journals as a major part of my job. I am a writer, and I write about journaling. So it’s natural for me to spend almost every working moment of my day with my nose in my journals. I am also in the process of writing a book about journaling. I like to write all my first drafts by hand, so a lot of what I fill my journals are notes for my book. In addition, I do a lot of my art work in my notebooks.

What I failed to explain when I posted this photo was that I spend almost all day, every day filling these notebooks. That’s why I fill so many. There is no magic that I know that you don’t. It’s simply my job, just as your job is something you spend a large part of your time doing. I absolutely don’t want you to look at my pile, and feel bad that you’ve only filled in one journal so far. I think it’s absolutely amazing that you have filled one journal already!

To consider this point, I had a look at what type of things I fill my notebook pages with, and it looks as follows:

10% – journaling

50% – book related stuff

20% – Art input (dictionary of me, etc.)

20% – Art output

As you can see, actual journaling only consists 10% of all my writing. There are 13 journals in the photo, which means at most, my journaling has filled a notebook and a bit. I think this is quite normal.

Writing practice vs. Journaling practice

This confusion relates to a point that I feel strongly about. That writing practice and journaling practice are not the same thing. Yes a lot of writers use journaling as part of their writing practice. I am one of those people. I find journaling helps with getting used to writing down my thoughts better. I use journaling as a warm up every morning so my writing process can happen more smoothly.

There’s a lot stress and anxiety in journaling right now because many people try to apply writing principals to their journaling practice. Morning Pages is a classic example of this. Morning pages is not a journaling practice, it’s a writing practice. The Artist’s Way, the book the Morning Pages come from, is not a book about journaling. It’s a book about writing, about becoming professional creatives. To consider this to be a good journaling practice, and to force yourself to write three pages a day as a journaling practice, is not going to make you better at journaling. I have spoke to too many people who consider themselves to be ‘bad at journaling’ because they tried the Morning Pages and couldn’t keep it up. Well, you are not bad at journaling.

Journaling everyday not equal to good journaling

Another dangerous notion is that you must journal every day in order to be good at journaling. It makes good sense that if you are a writer, you should write everyday. On the other hand, journaling isn’t a job. It’s a tool. It’s a tool that helps you make time for yourself, time for introspection, time for objectivity and time for self care. That sort of time is absolutely valuable and I think everyone should do it often. However, this doesn’t necessarily need to be made up 100% from journaling. There are many other things you can do too, such as meditation, yoga, a long hot bath, or a long walk.

What is important in a journaling practice is to learning to listen to how much and how often you need to journal. Not how much or how often someone else is doing it. I need to spend a lot more time in my journals because it’s my job. If journaling every day helps you too, then you should journal every day. If three times a week works better for you, then you should do that. If one journaling session a month works for you, then that is what you should do.

We all use our notebooks for different reasons and different uses. It makes absolutely no sense to compare your stack to someone else’s stack. What I would like us to do is focus more on what we get out of the experience of using our notebooks. We should all be getting exactly what we need from our journaling practices, not what someone else needs from their journaling practice.

 

Dictionary of Me – Flick Through

28th February 2015

Dictionary of Me - journaling, collecting every image you like in one journal. http://journalingsage.com
Yesterday I filled an entire notebook (Moleskine Softcover in large) with every image I liked from several magazines. The journal contains the whole picture of all the images I came acrossed that I liked. It wasn’t a collage with purpose, nor a moodboard to show off taste. The only deciding factor in whether an image went into the journal or not was whether I liked it.
Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com

The process took the whole day and it was a lot more of an emotional roller coaster than I had expected. I thought this would be a fun thing to do, something creative to do for the day. I didn’t realise it was going to be a battle with my negative, judge-y thoughts in my head for the right for me to express myself.

Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com

The first negative thought was ‘oh my goodness, I am wasting an ENTIRE Moleskine on just whimsy stuff I like.’ Followed by ‘who do I think I am to be wasting a whole notebook, a Moleskine no less, on stuff I like? It’s not like I have good taste. People would think this is a blasmouphus act towards a notebook!’ That was quickly followed by ‘Only artists get to fill up a notebook with images they like, you know, because they are artists. I am so not an artist, I should not be doing this.’

Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com

So on and on my resistance shouted and screamed at me the whole time. On and on I ripped pages out of magazine, stuck them in my journal, washi taped stuff in. The resistance throw everything it had at me. How I’m doing something that isn’t my right to do (the whole not being a ‘proper’ artist’ thing again), that this wasn’t journaling or art journaling, what on earth was I going to do with it afterwards.

Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com

My answer to all those resistance was ‘it doesn’t matter. I want to do this, in this way, and THAT MATTERS.’ 

Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com

What you want to do, in the way you want to do it matter too. Your brain will throw you a countless reasons why you shouldn’t start/stop immediately what you are wanting to do/are doing. Those thoughts won’t even fade away just because you are doing it. Those thoughts will stay with you the whole damn time. But keep going. Ignore the resistance and keep going. It’s totally worth it.

Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com

You might not like the result of what you did when you’ve finished. That’s totally normal. After all, it’s very hard to like and enjoy something you’ve created through so much hate messages coming from the one person that really knows how to hurt you – you. Give the work some time alone.

Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com

Give the work some time alone. Give yourself a break from the horrid thoughts that have been going through your head. Go away and come back the next day or the following week and have another look. I promise you you will love what you’ve done, and you will love the you that worked through all that resistance and created this beautiful work.

Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com

Once you’ve come back to your work and reconnected with that brave warrior you that worked through all those negative thoughts, then share your work. Share your work with your family, friends, and the world so that they too can get inspired to do what you just did – being brave, embracing yourself and allowing you some physical space to express who you are.

Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com

That’s exactly what I am doing by sharing some of the pages from my Dictionary of Me here on the blog. You can find my Dictionary of Me over on my flickr album. I hope this encourages you to make some physical space for who you are, what you like and express yourself in a way that you want to. Big hugs x

Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com Dictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.comDictionary of Me - fill a whole notebook with images you like from magazines. Making space for the things you like is important. http://journalingsage.com

Giving up on Judging

26th February 2015

giving up on judging http://journalingsage.com journal, journaling, notebook, creativity

What would happen if we stopped judging? What would flood into our minds in its place?

This is the thought that appeared in my journal after a week of travelling. When you are travelling, it’s so easy to judge. Judge the new culture you are walking into, judge the people you meet on the road, judge the experiences you go through. In some ways we use judging as a comfort blanket for when we are in unfamiliar situations. We use it to justify the discomfort we are experiencing and use it to excuse ourselves from facing the real cause of the discomfort within ourselves. If we judge others to be wrong, we don’t have to deal with the fact that there might be other ways to do and live than the one you are doing or living.

What would happen if we stopped judging? What would flood into our minds in its place?

Love, compassion, understanding and forgiveness would flood into our minds in the place left empty by giving up judging. I think we hold on to judgment so tightly because are are so fearful that all these beautiful positive things would flood our lives instead. And that’s a really scary prospect.

We judge our efforts at journaling because we might otherwise have to love what we created on the page. We might have to otherwise love the person that created such beautiful images and words. We might have to embrace the fact that we are flawed and yet very beautiful. We might have to forgive all the hurt we have received and have given. We might have to even love ourselves for who we are.

That to me sounds like a whole bunch of scary stuff. Yes, judging my own handwriting to be not good enough, or my ideas not good enough or that I’m a bad journaller because I don’t journal everyday (and I make up words) IS so much easier. As much as it’s horrible to do this to ourselves and stunt our possible emotional growth, it’s much easier than embracing all the love, compassion, understanding and forgiveness we are yet to experience.

It’s much easier to judge yourself for not having a good enough handwriting than to love that your handwriting really changes with and reflects your mood. It’s much easier to judge yourself for not doing journaling ‘properly’ because you don’t journal everyday than to understand the fact you have your own rhythm in how you want to journal. It’s much easier to judge that the thought you just had now is not an important enough idea to write down, than to spend the next half an hour writing and deeply exploring your mind for what it want to tell you.

These things are all far too huge for us to be able to change in one day, or even by just reading this post. We can’t suddenly be ripped away from our age-loved comfort blanket. It doesn’t work like that. I wouldn’t want you to rip off your blanket just to be brave. That’s not being brave, that’s not giving yourself the space to grow into something new at your own speed. All I ask for you to do now is to just mull over the question:

What would happen if we stopped judging? What would rush in to our minds in its place?

Tips on creating through the rough times

30th January 2015

Tips on creating through the rough times. http://journalingsage.com

Rough times. Whether through internal reasons (such as ill health) or external reasons (events that happen to you), rough times visits us far more often than any of us would ever like. The question is, when the rough times hit, do you stop being creative? Do you feel defeated and now have to wait until you are better, for the muse to show up again?

tips for creating through the rough times. http://journaling sage.com

I believe it’s extremely important for us to keep on creating even when life has taken a wrong turn somewhere and the muse has gone on a long-term holiday in Hawaii without you. Us creative people need to create. It’s like us humans need to breath. If we are not creating, we are not living.

Obviously, during rough times, you can’t go on like you did before. You can’t do the things you were doing because you are suffering. You are hurting and you need time to heal. But there is something you can do.

When you create through the rough times, the act of creating something keeps you going. It gives you a sense of having achieved something that day, even if it was the only thing you did. It also provides you with quiet, reflective time, but one where the pain you are going through is not the focus for once. I also believe that creating something truly helps with the healing process.

Tips on Creating Through the Rough Times

The main thing to remember when you are going through the rough times is to make the process of creating as easy as possible for you. This will probably mean doing something totally different from a creative project you normally do. You have to figure out what fits how you are right now,  being kind and understanding towards yourself.

Pick an easy project to do. Don’t try to learn a new skill right at this moment. Instead, go back to your old and well loved craft, something you can do with almost your eyes closed. Something you don’t really have to think about how to do it. For me, that is crochet.

Pick a small project or a large project with small steps. Don’t pick a large project that requires you to spend hours everyday. Pick a project that you can pick up and put down as you feel able to do.

Pick an easy pattern. Projects with complex pattern where you need to follow row by row with a highlighter and counters are not the best when you are not feeling your best. Instead, choose patterns that are easy to remember and uses repetitive patterns.

Pick something with minimum design decision required. Making designs decisions all the time can become really exhausting when you are not 100%. Either pick a project with all the colours chosen for you, or pick a set of colours and then go for a random ordering of colours!

Pick bright happy colours. Just being around bright happy colours helps you feel better. If you can choose materials that are so very soft to the touch, even better.

Tips on creating through the rough times. http://journalingsage.com

How can you not feel better playing with these gorgeous colours?

An Example Project

Tips on creating through the rough times. http://journalingsage.com

For me, I go through regular rough times with my depression. It shows up at my door step at an alarming regularity – in January and July every year. They can last anywhere from few weeks to three months. Three months is actually a good length of time to make a crochet blanket.

When I feel the depression coming, I head over to a yarn store and buy a whole bunch of bright yarns. Then I make a crochet blanket. They always have randomness to the colour order so I don’t have to think about what colour to use next. I pick designs that have very simple pattern, either a granny square or a row-by-row of repetitive stitches.

In the evenings, or even during the day if I don’t feel up to doing anything else, I will sit there and crochet away, a stitch at a time. Sometimes I even just stay in bed and crochet, surrounded by countless balls of yarn. I get a few rows done. I can say to myself ‘at least I did three rows on the blanket today. I did something today.’ I know that by the time the blanket is done, my depression will have lightened.

tips for creating through the rough times. http://journaling sage.com

Every day, I show up. I do the work I can do, and that is all that you can ask yourself right now. This won’t last forever, the pain will go, and you will heal. For now you are at least making something beautiful into this world.