The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘journaling

When fears are attended to, it clears the way for clear and simple writing that comes from your heart. Even the briefest attention can melt fear.
-Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, author

Last week, I began a series about spring cleaning for your creative life.

There are three steps in the process:

1) You reassess your space, your schedule, and patterns of mind to see what is supporting or not supporting your creative life.

2) You reorganize your space, schedule, and patterns of minds to allow you to create with more ease.

3) After reassessing and reorganizing, you rededicate yourself to having a productive and joyful creative life!

Reassessing your physical space is a great place to start because it is visible and you spend a lot of time there. Another thing to reassess during spring cleaning are your ‘patterns of mind’. By this I mean, the habitual ways of thinking and responding to your creative life.

One powerful pattern of mind is fear.

Fear can show up in so many ways in a creator’s life. We fear to write, draw, and sing badly, we fear rejection, we fear we won’t reach our potential, we often fear the blank page, canvas, music studio, etc. Fear often causes us to procrastinate.

Fear looks like not following through when an editor asks you to send them new work.

Fear looks like talking yourself out of registering for that art class that you’ve been dreaming about.

Fear looks like spending more time listening to writing podcasts than taking time to write.

One thing that helps is acknowledging and tracking our fears. One great way to do this is by keeping a fear journal.

In 2015, I had the good fortune of meeting the writer Daisy Hernandez, author of the incredible memoir, A Cup of Water under My Bed. During a talk she gave to my upper division ‘women and creativity’ seminar, she said that keeping a ‘fear journal’ has been helpful to her writing process. She explained that a fear journal is where she lists her fears that come to her as she begins writing (or even after she’s finished). So, while she works, she has her fear journal open on her desk. Sometimes she’ll write ‘Still afraid’, or she’ll name a fear specific to the project that she is working on.

What I love about this concept is that it acknowledges that writers tend to have lots of fears while writing and that it is powerful to capture them in one place. Fear is a normal part of the writing experience. Writing it down allows us to have some distance from the feelings that the fears evoke. A fear journal helps us to see the ebb and flow of our worries and concerns.

Fears never go completely away, but by employing self-reflective exercises, they don’t have to immobilize us.

Do you have a pattern of mind that needs some attending to during spring cleaning?

 

Image credits: Dreamstime; Shutterstock

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Affirmations-366Days#3-I celebrate every writing accomplishment, no matter how small.

 

This affirmation is inspired by a workshop that I attended, where I discovered the power of a making a ‘writing accomplishments’ list.

I remember anxiety creeping over me in Marjorie Hudson’s ‘Strategies for the Writing Life’ workshop when she cheerfully asked the group to name and claim our writing ‘accomplishments’ so far. People immediately raised their hands and asked questions like: Do you mean publication credits? How far back can we start our list? Does a personalized rejection letter count? What if I can’t think of anything?

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She calmly explained that we could count anything and everything that has happened in our writing lives that we believe strengthened or encouraged us. This could include the time our teacher in the third grade chose to read our essay in front of the class to submitting an op-ed to getting a poem published in a literary journal. Our list could include helpful feedback we received from an editor or agent (even if they passed on the book), or reassuring words from a published writer. Most of us undertook the task with a kind of grim determination. And, I felt that I was bound to have a short and uninteresting list.

After about ten minutes, she asked us to read from our lists. The mood in the room softened as people shared. As it turns out until we were asked to reflect on the shape of our writing lives, most of us had either forgotten or discounted many of the positive things that had shown up. Several people did mention publication as an aspect of their accomplishments, but much of it included specific moments of encouragement expressed by peers, teachers and other published writers. Often words of encouragement allowed us to keep going in the face of high self-doubt and flat out fear. We also celebrated the fact that many of us had completed various types of writing projects and with some additional strategic effort, some might eventually find their way into publication. My list included the over 50 journals I have amassed, over my life, that are stuffed with ideas, dream fragments, stories, and chapters of novels. Hearing the lists of the other writers uplifted and inspired me.

Since that workshop in the spring of 2011, I have often gone back to the list in my notebook as well as the longer ‘accomplishments’ list that I keep on my computer. Some of the writers in that workshop posted their list in their writing space for daily inspiration.

It is easy to forget or minimize the ways in which the writing life is sustained. A list is evidence of one’s deep intentions that we can turn toward during moments of skepticism about our progress.

The beginning of the year is a great time to start a writing accomplishments list, if you don’t have one. Or, you can review and wrap up your list from 2015. Remember to be generous in thinking about what counts!

 

 

I’m delighted to welcome writer and She Writes friend Nadine Feldman in the ‘Love Your Creative Self’ series to share her wisdom. I’ve included a prompt question based on her reflection.

TEA WITH A FRIEND


There is nothing like a trusted friend. We all want someone to share our secrets with, someone who will celebrate our triumphs and console us in our moments of failure.

My best friend is my writing practice. Each morning, before I get out of bed, I write three pages in a journal, a trick I learned from Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way. In these private pages, I describe my dreams, my fears, and my pettiness. Nothing is off limits, because the page doesn’t mind. When I tell my troubles to the page, it doesn’t try to fix or change me. It just listens. The muddied waters of my brain start to clear, and then the conversation changes. I could do this… What if…? I could solve my problem by…

Once I have bared my soul, I am free to work on my “real” writing, just as we often feel freer after sorting things out with friends. The conversation changes. We’re having tea and gossiping about imaginary people. We speculate about their motives, cry when they are sad, or laugh when they say something fun or interesting. Sometimes they surprise us and take the story in an unexpected direction.

Ever have one of those days when you’re on the outs with a friend, or you just don’t know how to say what you mean? Friends sometimes abandon us, and some days the page wants to stay blank and unresponsive. If we write enough of I don’t know what to write, though, something comes. Yes, we may get the silent treatment for a while, but it passes. We forgive, we are forgiven, and the words return.

Life intervenes. Financial or health pressures mount, someone we love dies, or a family member disappoints. Overwhelmed at time with these dramas, we may say, “How can I possibly write today?”  Yet how can we not? If we see our writing as our best friend, we will turn toward it, again and again, in good times and bad  – and it will sustain us. We gather our computer, curl up with a hot cup of tea, and begin.

Nadine Galinsky Feldman is the author of The Foreign Language of Friends (a novel) and When a Grandchild Dies: What to Do, What to Say, How to Cope. She also edited the award-winning Patchwork & Ornament: A Woman’s Journey of Life, Love, and Art by Jeanette Feldman. She loves gardening, hiking, travel, and yoga.  She can be found on her blog at http://nadinefeldman.com/

Prompt: What are the ways we can befriend our creative work, so that as Nadine says “we will turn toward it, again and again” even when our lives feel busy and out of sorts?

For some of us it might be as direct as reminding ourselves daily that our creative work matters and then acting accordingly. For others it might mean claiming a home space to paint, quilt or write. For others it might mean learning more effective ways to calm the critical voices in our head that act as saboteurs.

What’s one new way you can befriend your creative work this week?

Photo Credit: Suzanna Leigh

 


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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