Start a Creativity Journal

moss in hands

When you begin any creative project, whether it be writing, painting, or cooking an amazing meal, there is something to be said for honoring your own creative process.  Sure you can follow the path of others and there is much to be learned from those with experience in your field.

However the fact of the matter is that WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT.

I know, right?  That is some kind of crazy-makin’ notion going on right there…  Fact is that we are all different.  What works for Jane may not work for Janet and so on.

Get to know your motivation:

Before you even begin to create, take a moment to jot down what it is that is driving you to create in the first place.  Do you desire fame and riches?  Do you want your Mummy/Daddy/ bully to finally acknowledge you?  Do you feel motivated by some divine source to put something new into the universe?  Or are you just itching in your fingers to Do Something?

Whatever it is that is motivating you to create, one thing is guaranteed.  It will be overwhelming at times and ignoring that motivation can be a recipe for disaster in the form of mental unwellness.

Because creativity is the very act that will bring up our deepest fears.  Creating something is, after all, about innovation.  It is about birthing something into the world that has never been seen in that exact form before.  It is about making a statement of independence and offering yourself to the world in a physical form.  It is the ultimate act of manifesting.

Forget affirmations and hocus pocus (although I love me some hocus pocus.  If it helps then why not?)

Creating something is about taking a risk. 

It is an act of courage.

And as such you should record the insights that come with taking that leap of faith.

Start a creativity journal

This can be just a diary which you fill in after your creative time. Or you can make it a work of art in itself. (Beware that this can be a bit of a creative cul-de-sac but lovely nonetheless!)

Answering the following prompts can be fun:

How did it feel to put words on the page?  What did you think of those marks you made on the canvas?  What did that strange spice mix taste like?

What do you need to take this creative act further?

What emotions did this act bring up for you?

Why start a Creativity Journal?

I’m no expert but I know this:  when I examine myself for Truth, I always find it.  Being creative is a great way of getting to know yourself better.  It will familiarise you with the monsters that dwell within your psyche and throw some light on the shadows that you have been hiding from.  Recording this new sense of self awareness will make you stronger and better able to continue on the journey.  It is amazing how our subconscious offers us answers when we take the time to listen closely.

Here are some other ways to use a Creativity Journal:

  1. Record insights from other creative types.  Whether it is from their blogs, books or interviews, creative types love to talk about their ‘process’.
  2. Jot down ideas for future creative experiments.  Jotting it down means that you have caught the idea and don’t need to waster dream space on them just yet.
  3. Interrogate your demons.  Writing down your fears has a funny way of lessening their power.  It’s amazing the guidance that comes through with journaling.
  4. Put in lovely quotes and inspiring images.  Make it pretty.  Creativity is beautiful and often visual after all.
  5. Record your progress.  How many words today?  How much time painting?
  6. Evaluate your experience.  How can you improve it?  What tools could be handy?  How can it be improved?  What went great?

So, do you have a creative journal?  I loved reading about Kate Morton’s notebooks which you can read about here.  Such an inspiration!

Do you journal your own creative process?  What tips do you have for ways to use the humble journal to take your creativity to greater heights?  Share a comment.  I would love to know your thoughts.

Keep calm and write a novel

keep-calm-and-write-a-novel-BLOG SIZE

I am wondering if it really is possible to “keep calm and write a novel”….

On the one hand we, as writers, are supposed to be consumed with the mighty fire of the Muse and throw ourselves like flotsam into the fray of birthing this novel.

I want to find a different way.  I want to find the writerly equivalent of a water birth – soulful, soothing and spiritual.  I don’t want to be consumed and burned up by this process.  I am on a quest to find a way of writing that feels full of a calm sense of purpose.

There is this association between art and depression/ madness that I have bought into in the past.  The romance of Sylvia Plath.  The tortured genius of Van Gogh.  The bright light of Mozart.  We want to see artists and creatives as different, dangerous, somehow defective.  We buy into this idea that angst will make us better writers, bring more depth to the process.  And indeed when, a few years ago, I played with poetry I did find that my best poems came from mining deep into my psyche and opening old wounds.  I was able to access those scars and use them to power the words on the page.

But can I do this for a 90000 word novel without decimating myself at the same time?  Probably not.  And more to the point, do I want my writing to destroy my mental health and take down the joy of those around me?  Absolutely not.

So how can I do this?

By shifting my paradigm.  Great art is not only born from great pain.  The artist/ writer does not have to sacrifice themselves to their art.  This is a story that we have been fed to justify not trying to create great art in the first place.  It is the systematic degradation of genius to the realm of dangerous and ‘sick’.

My new paradigm is that my writing can be a joyful expression of all the facets of who I am as a person.  I can write about sadness because sadness is part of my emotional spectrum.  But I can equally write of joy.  All the emotions that I feel are part of my story, my voice.  I do not need to take on the cloak of mental illness in order to be a ‘good writer’.  I can see writing as part of the expression of my whole self.  Writing should not burn me out, it should fill me up.  It should not feel like an endurance test, it should feel like playing.  Yes, playing hard and giving my all to the game, but playing nonetheless.

So today, I call upon this new paradigm to guide my process.  I embrace the idea that my happiness is invested in bringing this project to fruition, but it is the process that will bring me joy, not the outcome.  All too often as writers, we attach ourselves to outcomes over which we have no control.  And then we wonder why we get disappointed when the final ‘product’ fails to perform in the marketplace??  That is madness disguised as a industrial business model.

Today, I write for myself.  I write to express my own unique interpretation of the world.  I do not write to create product, I write to create an outlet for my spirit in all its unique glory.

Why are you writing?  Is it time for you to shift your paradigm?  Leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.

Writing as a Spiritual Practice

use your gifts

For the last few days I have found myself retreating into my journal more and more.  Not that I am doing creative writing exercises or honing my craft/ideas/ writer discipline in any way shape or form.  Simply, I want to understand this desire to write stories.  I want to  optimise my process and not throw myself haphazardly into the fray, hoping for the best.

I am sure that there are those who would refer to this soul searching as a rather elaborate form of procrastination and perhaps, on some level, they are right.

However, mental preparation and understanding your own motivation and process is an accepted part of training to be a professional athlete.

Writing a novel is going to be like running a marathon, I presume, and I want to be in pretty good condition before I put pen to paper.

I think seeing my writing as a spiritual practice helps me to rise above that nagging inner critic who thinks that deciding to be a ‘novelist’ is a ludicrous display of vanity and narcissism.  ‘ Who the hell do you think you are?” the Harridan cries.

And I am answering Her call by trying to come up with an answer that gives a heartfelt response to this question.

Indeed, who the hell do I think I am?  I am not connected, or experienced.  I have no qualifications as a writer.  But this I know.  Being a writer of fiction has been the dream for as long as I can remember.  Being a novelist has been the dream that I have run from as long as I can remember.  I have found incredible ways of resisting this dream.  I have married partners who confirmed how ridiculous it was to even think of doing such a thing.  I have got degrees and certificates coming out my ears and yet the dream remains.  She quietly whispers to me in the night, “you know what you need to do…. do this and you will be happy”

So I am embracing the idea that writing is a spiritual practice.  Writing is my way of fulfilling my dharma, connecting with the divine, sharing something of myself with the world.

Because, even if I do not experience the hoped for outcome, I am determined to enjoy this journey.  I want to savour every moment of my writing, even this stage when I am not writing very much at all.  I want to feel that loss of self that comes from truly diving into a task and allowing the flow to run through me.  I want to see writing not as self indulgence but as the ultimate act of self-care.

And I don’t think I am alone.

I have read books about honing your craft and just hammering out the words.  There’s no mystery, they tell us, just set a deadline and get on with it.

But I am finding a different way.

I desire mystery.  I want to feel devotion.  I want the challenge to teach me something about myself and develop my strength to keep going because I am driven by love alone.

So today, I am pledging to see my creative process as a spiritual practice.  I am gathering my inspiration and finding my mentors.  I am taking this game seriously and wanting to do the best that I can so that I can look back and say to myself, “You did good.  You learned well.  You gave it your very best shot.”

And my best is good enough.