I have been asked many times how I came about the idea of creating MY Journal. Back in 2012 my life was a mess. I was stressed, very unhappy, and didn’t know where to turn. Every aspect of my life seemed to be going in the wrong direction. I felt disconnected from my friends, undervalued at work and nothing was going my way. Sounds familiar?
I remember being on the phone to a good friend, pouring my heart out proclaiming how stuck I felt. She quickly and calmly said to me, "I'll post something to you, look out for it in the post in the next few days". Two days later the book ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron arrived on my doorstep.I wasn’t sure what to make of it and at first. Was it a book for artists going through an artist block? I had nothing to lose by giving it a try.
“The trick is to metabolize pain as energy. Learn, when hit by loss, to ask the right question: "What next?" instead of "Why me?”
The Artist Way is broken into a 12-week program, with weekly lessons, tasks, and reflections. It was easy to read and it wasn’t long into the book I felt productively inspired. The questions Julia asked dug deep into my past, the good and the bad. I realised just how fortunate I am to have amazing people in my life and also the opportunities I have had to learn from the not so great experiences.
The 2 main tasks during this 12-week course that stuck with me are the daily morning pages and the artist dates.
The morning pages refer to handwriting 3 long pages every morning. Regardless if you have anything on your mind to write down or not. This is in essentially journaling and creating a daily productivity planner. Getting into the daily habit of waking up 20-30mins earlier to write was my biggest challenge. But within a week I could already feel the benefits, my mind and headspace became clearer. By leaving all the emotional and mental baggage behind on the pages, I felt ready to take on the day.
“Working with the morning pages, we begin to sort through the differences between our real feelings, which are often secret, and our official feelings, those on the record for public display.”
Morning pages forced me to pay more attention to the reoccurring issues that I wrote down regularly, rather than ignore and not deal with them. Practicing active mindfulness exercise helped me, my thoughts would come to me as I wrote. Ideas, fears, hopes, dreams… I was experiencing a whole different world. I could see what was working for me and decide to do more of it and stop or leave what was not working, mindfulness and focus became my daily routine.
I began to plan, wrote down what I wanted out of my life, discovered and rediscovered the important things that make me happy and decided on the actions I needed to take.
The second task is the artist dates, Julia draws from the concept that we all have an artist child within us. We are all creators and therefore we should never stop playing and exploring.
“Serious art is born from serious play.”
As we get older, adult responsibilities can overwhelm us and we forget how to be creative. In 'The Artist Way', Julia urges readers to set at least 2 hours a week to take yourself on an artist date, just by yourself. Something also termed as a 'self-date'. She suggests exploring a new hobby, picking up an activity you loved doing as a child but haven’t done for years. Even simple things like going for walks, buying yourself your favourite snack, baking, putting on that song you use to love, taking on arts and crafts…. In essence, play.
“No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.”
Going out on my own was daunting at first, however, it wasn’t long before I could not wait for my next play time. I went to watch theatre shows, took myself out for dinner, walked by the Thames in London, tried a pottery class. I created a vision board, spent the time to dream and write down my dreams, explored the beach, the list was endless. The more I explored the more ideas I got. I learnt more about myself, what I enjoyed and what I didn't like as much. During my artist dates great and wonderful ideas, dreams, aspirations, action plans would come to me. It was like a gateway had opened.
The Artist Way changed my life. Within the first few weeks, I won 2 competitions (even though I’ve always told myself I never win competitions, ever!). In the first 6 months, the list had written down of my goals and dreams in my morning pages all came true. Buy a flat, tick! Find a job I love, with a great manager that really values my work, double tick! Get to travel with work, tick again! My relationship with my family improved, I reconnected with friends. I was happy! The kind of happiness that comes from within, a deeper love and gratitude for life.
“We must actively, consciously, consistently, and creatively nurture our artist selves.”
I remain forever and eternally grateful to my friend for sending ‘The Artist Way’ to me and over the years I have also sent several copies to friends in hope that it improves their lives as much as it did now.